ATDA TOWN HALL MEETINGS
OMAHA:Tuesday, January 7, 2014 &Wednesday, January 8, 20147:00 AM, 12:00 PM & 3:00 PMEmbassy Suites555 S. 10th St.Omaha, NE 68102402-346-9000
BY CONFERENCE CALL:San Bernardino, North Platte, Chicago & Kansas CityPlease call David Volz to arrange date & times
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A recent post by the company contained the following; "At UP, anonymous communications in violation of company policies are considered particularly serious." Oh, really?
Have you noticed that nearly everything that the company has put out has been anonymous? Why do you think that is? Why would you believe anything that is being said when you don't even know who is saying it? Who is this nameless person?
How you vote in this election could change your life forever. Why would you take advice from an anonymous person? Are you really going to let nameless, who has spent his entire existence, hiding in the shadows affect your decision? Why doesn't nameless want you to know who they are?
As we've gotten further into the election have you noticed how the tone of the writings of nameless has changed? Nameless has moved on from any possible substance in his writings to more of a character assassination. It's as ifnameless finally figured out that you were not buying into what he was saying and had to change gears. First, it was - criticize the message and now it is - criticize the players. Apparently, the strategy of nameless was to malign the character of ATDA President McCann and myself because surely you wouldn't put your trust in such "liars."
While I don't believe the company has a right to interject its wishes upon the train dispatchers in the election, early on the writings of nameless, while I disagreed with what she said, were done in somewhat of a professional manner. Nameless touted the importance of the company's reputation and how other companies and people looked up to UP. But, as time passed and the company began to really fear that the train dispatchers would choose to become represented by the ATDA, the writings of nameless became less and less professional and more, immature. It was as if the UP had turned the writings over to a bunch of high school students who stood out as the elitists in the school. The ones that thought they could make themselves look better by being hateful to the others. The ones that "knew" they were better than the others.
In his latest writing, nameless jumped from one topic to the other trying to confuse the reader into believing her nonsense. True to form, he returned to his allegation that ATDA President McCann lied about UP's actions involving Railroad Retirement. Now, nameless is not only calling ATDA President McCann a liar regarding this, she is also calling TCU President Scardelletti a liar.
On December 24, 2013, an email message that President Scardelletti sent to the other TCU Officers was posted on our Blog at http://www.trainsheet.blogspot.com/2013/12/tcu-national-president-robert.html President Scardelletti wrote:"Please do everything you can to get the word out to UP Train dispatchers to vote YES FOR THE UNION. The ATDA. The union is what gives us dignity and respect on and off the job. Just citing one example of what rail labor has done is our shining star Railroad Retirement. That is a negotiated benefit by the Rail Unions legislated into law. As you know the Railroad Retirement Board has recently announced that the average annuity with spouse and cola for a career railroader is over $2 million over your retirement life. If it was up to the UP we would not have this benefit. Every company is trying to eliminate their pension benefits. That's the word to pass on." (Emphasis added.)
So, doesn't it make more sense for you to believe the words of two National Union Presidents instead of the words ofnameless?
In deciding how you will vote, consider the source of the information you are receiving. We will not shy away from putting our name on anything we say because we say what we mean and we mean what we say. The alternative is to believe a nameless source. Do not believe the rants by nameless.
------- For the complete Blog click www.trainsheet.blogspot.com
For the complete blog click www.trainsheet.blogspot.com
January 3, 2014: Millionaires like Harry Wilson are getting rich off the concessions that are destroying good union jobs.
Our union should be leading the fight, but Hoffa Jr. is no Hoffa. He has turned his back on freight, UPS freight, carhaul, and trucking Teamsters.
Complaining in the break room won’t save our pensions or our union. But rank-and-file Teamsters standing together can take back our union.
In some locals, TDU members have defeated pension cuts, elected new leadership, and won better contracts. To take back the International union, we need a united movement.
Don’t give up, step up. Join TDU today.
Teamsters before us put their lives on the line to win what we have. $40 is a small investment to stop Hoffa Jr. from throwing it all away.Issues: FreightTeamster Voice: Teamster Voice 288 January/February 2014
January 3, 2014: The labor movement is launching a national effort to raise the minimum wage. But Teamster wages and benefits are bottoming out under Hoffa and Hall.
The labor movement is launching a national effort to raise the federal minimum wage to more than $10 an hour and to boost local and state minimum wages even higher.
In the meantime, Teamster wages are bottoming out under contracts negotiated by James Hoffa and Ken Hall.
Even under our largest contract for the most profitable Teamster employer, UPS, our wages are falling behind.
If UPS part-time wages had kept pace with inflation since 1982, the starting wage would be over $20 an hour today. Instead under the contract negotiated by Hoffa and Hall, many UPS part-timers will start at $10 an hour through 2018.
That’s less than the $10.10 an hour that is the target minimum wage under federal legislation that will be introduced this year.
Labor unions and community allies are campaigning for even higher minimum wages in many states and local areas. For example: new legislation just won in the two largest counties in Maryland and the District of Columbia will raise the minimum wage to $11.50—raising the pay of Teamsters hired at the Landover, Maryland UPS hub in the middle of the contract term.
Teamsters should not have to wait for minimum wage legislation in order to get a pay increase.
Other Teamsters are not at minimum wage, but their pay and standard of living is falling behind. Under Hoffa Sr., a Teamster job was a ticket to the middle class. Under Hoffa Jr, freight Teamsters have seen their pay and pensions gutted while tycoons like Hoffa appointee Harry Wilson have made millions off of the concessions at YRC.
Hoffa’s pay has ballooned to $367,864 since he took office. He’s not feeling any pinch or planning any fightback. That’s up to working Teamsters to do for ourselves and that is what TDU is all about.
TDU members will be there in the campaign to raise the minimum wage. We’ll also be organizing for living wages and against contract concessions in our own union.
Good pay, quality benefits, a secure pension and some power on the job. These aren’t supposed to be exclusive perks for top Teamster officials. In TDU, we’re working to rebuild a Teamsters Union that fights for a better future for every working Teamster.Issues: Hoffa WatchTeamster Voice: Teamster Voice 288 January/February 2014
January 3, 2014: Teamsters head into 2014 with a full plate of challenges. Hoffa and Hall have spent 2013 doing nothing for Teamsters at UPS, UPS Freight, ABF and YRCW. Our pensions are under attack. Many of our local leaders are discouraging or burned out.
TDU members are working to make real changes in the direction of our union, starting in our shops and locals and right up to changing the IBT leadership.
Contact TDU to find out what you can do in your local or workplace to build a stronger Teamsters union.
Local Education Conferences
“We’re planning on holding a TDU educational conference in 2014. We’ve done them the last couple years and they’ve been a great way to get members together to talk about the problems we face and how we can make changes.They’re like a mini TDU Convention with workshops taught by Teamsters and labor educators. Part-timers from UPS are stepping up and getting involved and so are Teamsters from lots of different locals.
“Where there’s information, there’s unity and where there’s unity there is power.”
Local 804, New York
Distributing Teamster Voice
“Teamster Voice is a great newspaper for learning about what’s going on in our union. We passed out hundreds of copies over the course of the last few months and plan to do more in the coming year. It was a good tool to have for the contract fight at UPS but it is also great for learning about things like grievance handling, FMLA and other jurisdictions. Get a bundle, large or small, and help us inform and mobilize Teamster members as we build a stronger union.”
Local 344, Milwaukee
Running for Local Union Office
“Members are frustrated with the union. But they’re also hungry for change and we’re getting a great response so far.
“Our challenge is to organize that hunger into a force that can turn Local 237 around. We want to put the members first and restore confidence that Local 237 Teamsters can win.”
Local 237, New York
Raising Money to Support TDU
“TDU depends on financial support to keep our movement strong. In Chicago, our chapter plans to host a fundraiser in the spring of 2014. We invite our TDU members, friends from labor, and other movement activists. It’s a fun way to pass the hat and sustain TDU.”
Local 743, Chicago
Defending Our Pensions
“Congress plans to make changes to our pensions in 2014. We’re getting organized to defend our retirement security.
“We’re planning a meeting for March to learn more about proposed changes and prepare for how Teamsters can respond. Our goal is to get active and retired Teamsters united to send a strong message that we won’t stand for any cuts to what we’ve earned.”
Minnesota TDU Chapter
January 3, 2014: It has been one of the biggest failures of leadership in Hoffa’s 15 years in office. YRCW Teamsters were mailed a ballot for a five-year contract extension, without the union leadership even bargaining for them.
Whatever the outcome fo the vote is, we know this for sure: the Hoffa-Hall leadership has abandoned freight Teamsters.
For 15 years they have done nothing to defend our union or to organize in freight, or in carhaul, or other trucking fields. They don’t have a strategy and don’t understand Teamster power. They have not organized; they have not defended the national master contracts or the members’ pensions.
Now they have refused to even bargain for YRC Teamsters. They have left members to fend for themselves.
They take better care of their hedge-fund friend Harry Wilson than they do the Teamsters at the center of Teamster power and Teamster history.
If you voted yes, or if you voted no, know this: Hoffa and Hall gotta go. We need a new direction in our union. The time to build a movement to make it happen is now.
We Need to Clean House
“Regardless of how you voted on the new round of givebacks, you know we didn’t get any real leadership out of Hoffa and the freight division. And we do need leadership if our union is going to survive in freight. We need to clean house at the top of our union.”
Don McClure, YRC, Local 728, Atlanta
What “Equal Sacrifice?”
“Upper management continues to take high salaries and annual bonuses. Terminal management is over staffed in many locations. Where are their cuts and so-called “equal sacrifice”? Welch and his buddies put it all on Zollars, but working Teamsters continue to see mismanagement and incompetence. Why should Teamsters have to pay for it?”
Jim Price, YRC, Local 107, PhiladelphiaIssues: FreightTeamster Voice: Teamster Voice 288 January/February 2014
January 3, 2014: UPS Freight Teamsters have been attacked by their own union leadership in the worst way: the denial of the right to a fair vote.
The question is, what will you—and other Teamsters nationwide—do about it?
The Hoffa-Hall leadership has announced that they will not allow a mail ballot vote on the UPS Freight contract. For decades, this is how all contract votes have been done for UPS package, for freight, for carhaul, airlines, and others.
Instead they have announced they will hold meetings to sell the deal, and then vote right there.
What’s wrong with this picture? Members need time after hearing about the contract to talk it over, and cast an informed vote. And all members—including those who cannot get to a union meeting—deserve the right to vote. And they deserve a vote which can be easily monitored so that all members will accept the result as fair.
Teamster solidarity sent Hoffa and Hall back to UPS management with powerful leverage to win a fair contract. Hoffa and Hall turned their back on their own members for six months, then came up with a dirty trick against them.
If you are fed up with them, don’t just complain, do something about it. Join the growing network of UPS Freight Teamsters working together for change.Issues: TDU UPS Freight NetworkTeamster Voice: Teamster Voice 288 January/February 2014
January 3, 2014: Meet Harry Wilson. Hoffa appointed this Wall Street tycoon to the YRC Board of Directors. Now Wilson is making millions on the YRC concessions deal.
Hoffa appointee Harry Wilson has received, or stands to receive, as much as $15 million for dealing with distressed companies that bargain with the Teamsters since he was first tagged by James Hoffa to work on YRCW’s 2011 restructuring. This includes a $5.5 million bonus if YRC members approve the concessions and a bank deal is consummated.
Who is this man?
Wilson’s early career was with various hedge fund and private equity firms. He made it big on Wall Street and retired at age 36.
He entered government work, and served as a major player on the Auto Industry Task Force, working on the GM and Chrysler bankruptcy cases. Then Wilson, a Republican, went into politics. He unsuccessfully ran for Comptroller of New York State in 2010.
Soon after that political foray, Wilson formed MAEVA Advisors in 2011. MAEVA is a low-profile operation, with a one-page website (maevaadvisors.com) that lists nothing but a phone number and an email address.
Then he hooked up with the Hoffa administration.
On February 28, 2011, Hoffa announced that Wilson was joining the YRCW restructuring efforts on behalf of the Teamsters to “break the logjam between the company and the lenders’ group.” Wilson also had a role in the Hostess restructuring, with MAEVA reportedly receiving $200,000 per month over an extended period. In October 2013 MAEVA filed papers requesting payment of $3.5 million in the bankruptcy court in the case. If Hostess had survived, the company would have been required to pay MAEVA’s fees.
But YRCW was a bigger cash cow. Wilson’s initial YRCW work in early 2011 paid him $125,000 per month, plus a bonus of $1.5 million in July 2011. That was just weeks after Tyson Johnson excitedly told the Teamster Convention in Las Vegas of the YRCW restructuring, in which Hoffa named Wilson as an IBT appointee to YRCW's board. Sources claim that Wilson convinced his fellow board members to pay him an additional $1.5 million for his role in the restructuring, for a total payout of over $3 million for work that lasted only five months.
Wilson is paid $175,000 per year as a member of YRCW’s board.
During the November meeting of Teamster local officers in Dallas, YRCW’s CFO, Jamie Pierson, told the Teamster officials that they had evaluated various restructuring experts and determined that MAEVA was the best resource to lead the restructuring.
On February 1, 2013, the YRCW Board engaged fellow board member Wilson to lead a strategic initiative related to restructuring again the company’s deals with the banks. The engagement agreement (contained in SEC filings) explicitly states that the IBT approved of this arrangement! According to the contract Wilson is receiving $250,000 per month and is eligible to receive a completion bonus not to exceed $5.5 million if members approve the concessions and the deal is consummated. Wow.
It seems odd for a public corporate board to select one of the directors to function as the company’s investment banker. This is complicated by the fact that Wilson was appointed by the IBT in part to protect the interests of Teamster employees. But the deal he has engineered requires those Teamsters to accept new concessions. Add to that the extra $5.5 million Wilson has riding on the concession vote. That’s quite a web of potential conflicts.
One thing is certain: no concessions will be taken by Hoffa, Ken Hall, or their appointee, Harry Wilson.
Freight Teamsters: Don't Give Up. Step Up.
Millionaires like Harry Wilson are getting rich off the concessions that are destroying good union jobs. To take back the International Union, we need a united movement. Don't give up, step up.
January 3, 2014: ORION takes more decision-making out of the hands of drivers and gives management another tool to harass UPS Teamsters.
UPS is implementing new technology, the Orion Solution. It’s telematics on steroids.
ORION takes EDD and makes it dynamic. Your package car is still loaded according to the PAS system. But ORION rearranges your EDD to tell you where to deliver and do pick-ups stop-by-stop based on the shortest mileage for the day.
As a result, you may never run your route the same way twice.
You might be told to deliver packages from you 8000 section before your 1000 one day and be told to do it a completely different way the next day.
Drivers report the kind of high jinks that come whenever UPS first introduces new technology. For example: being told to deliver on both sides of streets even if it’s a divided road that can’t be crossed or ORION directing you to a location that’s the wrong-way down a one-way street because it is the next closest stop in terms of raw mileage.
Some of these kinks will be ironed out over time. But ORION can never account for weather, closed roads, traffic, accidents, and other real-world conditions, including the fact that on many routes the driver has to get some bulk stops off early or they have no hope of being able to move in the truck.
If need be, drivers can break trace. But the company target is to have drivers on 85 percent trace.
ORION gives new powers to a company that is already abusing technology to monitor, harass, pressure, and discipline drivers.
Like Telematics, ORION gives a target time for each delivery. It also calculates how many miles you should drive each day based on the packages on your trucks.
Drivers who follow trace less than 85 percent of the time or who drive more miles than projected by ORION get called into the office and harassed.
Drivers need to protect themselves by working smart.
It’s a good idea to document your day with a Package Car Log Book, available from TDU. Use the log book to document weather, traffic, management orders, or other unusual circumstances that may affect your route.
If ORION is giving you instructions that make no sense, put the problem back on management and then work as directed. Make an entry in the remarks column like “directed by sup” so it is in your delivery records.
Remember, the targets set by ORION are NOT recognized by the contract. The only production standard recognized by the contract is “A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.” (Article 37)
The biggest disciplinary danger with ORION and other technology is termination for “dishonesty.”
Even though they knew ORION was on the way, the new contract negotiated by Hoffa and Hall still allows UPS to fire drivers based solely on information from technology in cases of “dishonesty.”
With no help from Hoffa and Hall, it’s up to drivers to avoid the technology trap. Work smart. Follow the methods. Don’t let UPS jam you up by taking a shortcut that management sometimes ignores or even encourages.
If you get called into the office to talk about your performance under ORION, take a shop steward and keep your answers simple.
Unless you remember a specific problem, don’t guess to explain a discrepancy. If you don’t remember just say so. Don’t get drawn into a management fishing expedition or make up an explanation and give management the opportunity to hit you with trumped up dishonesty charges.Issues: UPSTeamster Voice: Teamster Voice 288 January/February 2014
January 3, 2014: UPS is claiming the right to discipline Teamsters based on company “Social Media Guidelines” that govern everything from online chat rooms and forums to blogs, and Facebook.
UPS says “Activities that violate the standards outlined in these guidelines can lead to disciplinary action, including job termination.”
But will management’s attempts to control what you post on Facebook lead to a face-plant for Big Brown?
The NLRB has thrown out employer social media policies that are overly broad and would prohibit or have a chilling effect on workers’ legal rights to discuss wages, working conditions, or union issues.
UPS’s guidelines, which are posted at UPSers.com, ban virtually any online speech on union or workplace issues and clearly violate the National Labor Relations Act.
The guidelines state that: Employees should “Follow company procedures for employee concerns” and “Publicizing your concerns through social media is not an effective or appropriate manner to get issues resolved.”
Elsewhere, the UPS guidelines say: “Social networks or other tools hosted outside of UPS’s protected Intranet environment should not be used for internal communication among fellow employees. It is fine for UPSers to disagree, but please don’t use your external blog or other online social media to air your differences in an inappropriate manner.”
As written, these guidelines illegally prohibit concerted activity by Teamsters and other employees that is protected by the National Labor Relations Act.
The company’s social media rules need to be thrown out and re-written in negotiations with our union.
UPS management can’t be happy at how effectively UPS Teamsters used Facebook to build rank-and-file opposition to the contract, but the company can’t put the technology genie back in the bottle.
That doesn’t mean that Teamsters can post anything they want to about UPS without consequences. You can be legally disciplined in some cases for what you post, even if it’s on your own time and on your personal Facebook page.
For more information on union member rights (and wrongs) on Facebook, read “Can the Boss Fire Me for Facebook?”Issues: UPSTeamster Voice: Teamster Voice 288 January/February 2014
January 3, 2014: UPS Teamsters speak out on the contract fight and how we can keep organizing for a stronger union and against corporate greed.
We’ve Got To Stand Up for Ourselves
“When our own Teamster leaders agreed to give healthcare cuts to UPS, I realized if we wanted someone to stand up for us, we needed to do it ourselves.
“I went to the Vote No page on Facebook. I met TDU members. I got involved.
“Our Supplement and Rider may be over, but we’re just getting started in Southern California. More people than ever are talking about TDU. We’re building a network of people who can answer members’ contract questions and help them enforce their rights.”
Lena Molina, Local 63
Air Hub, Ontario, Calif.
Rebuilding Local Union Power
“After a long and strenuous.battle, we won the best supplement we have seen in a long time even though some things.will never change like.the daily fight for the respect that we deserve and the fight to enforcing our contract. Our goal moving forward into 2014 is changing the “norm” for our part-timers and to continuing protecting the pension of the hard-working men and.women of UPS.”
Kioma Forero, Local 804, Preload, New York City
“Members took back our union in the Local 251 election. I’m coming off the package car and getting to work full-time enforcing the contract. It’s never easy taking on UPS but we’ll give it everything we have whether it’s 9.5, sups working, or protecting members from unfair discipline.”
Matt Maini, Local 251, Business Agent, Providence
Sharing Information for a Stronger Union
“I joined TDU during the contract negotiations because I was fed up with the information brownout.
“When you look at the Teamster magazine, there’s nothing about us. It’s just PR for Hoffa and Hall. My local’s website hasn’t been updated since 2012!
“Like anyone who wants to know what’s really going on, I turned to the TDU website.
“When Hoffa and Hall gave UPS concessions despite all those profits, I knew it was time to man up and do something.
“I joined TDU. I volunteered at the contract vote count. I attended a TDU education conference in New York and the TDU Convention in Chicago. I got elected to the TDU Steering Committee.
“I want to get more people involved and I want to build a stronger union. It’s up to us to step up and share information with other members.
“I’m going to get a bundle of 100 Teamster Voice and spread the word here in Dallas. It’s time for change.”
Ron Beard, Local 767
Feeder Driver, Dallas
Contract Was a Wake-Up Call for Me
“I was once told silence leads to consent. The contract behavior of the IBT leadership was a wake up call for me, and to remain silent would violate my own conscience.
“Many of us across the country have concluded that the current International leadership has lost touch with the members. They have no plan, no vision.
“We need a vision to organize the unorganized and build Teamster power, and we need to unite all Teamsters to take back our union. This starts with you, then to your local union hall. We are the Teamsters Union.”
Angelo P. Demma, Local 2785
Package Driver, Palo Alto, Calif.
January 3, 2014: Major changes to federal pension laws will be considered by Congress in 2014. Teamster members, along with the AARP and the Pension Rights Center, are organizing to defend your right to your pension.
The National Coordinating Committee for Multi-Employer Plans (NCCMP), which includes the Central States Pension Fund along with many Teamster employers and some unions, is lobbying for a law which would allow already-earned pensions to be cut. Thomas Nyhan, the Director of the Central States Fund, was a star witness in Congressional hearings in favor of cutting existing pensions.
The NCCMP is now aiming to get their bill into Congress by summer, after the coalition to save pensions got it stalled last fall. The Pension Protection Act of 2006 has a sunset clause and will likely be renewed or changed in 2014.
The IBT announced in December that it was launching a campaign to defend Teamster pensions and promised retirement benefits, after Hoffa switched over to oppose the NCCMP stand. If Hoffa follows through on this pledge, it will boost our efforts. We need IBT resources to build a national mobilization in every local and in Washington DC to defend pensions.
Take Action to Save Our Pensions
- Learn about the attack on union pensions and the dangerous new bill to cut our pensions at www.tdu.org/pensions.
- Distribute the Protect Our Pensions petition and collect signatures.
- Organize a pension meeting with retirees and active Teamsters in your area—call TDU for help planning your meeting.
- Volunteer to participate in a delegation to visit Congress or local lawmakers.
Nelson Mandela, the first Black president of South Africa, Nobel Peace Prize winner, former political prisoner and leader of the African National Congress who became a world-wide symbol in the struggle against apartheid passed away on December 5th at the age of 95. Local 10 President-elect and International Executive Board member Melvin Mackay attended Mandela’s funeral in South Africa on behalf of the ILWU.
“A figure like Nelson Mandela comes along once in a lifetime. He became a world-wide symbol for human rights and the struggle for social justice. He helped South Africa along the path to democracy. The world is a better place because of him. He will be missed,” MacKay said.
Striking the Nedlloyd Kimberly
ILWU Local 10 members helped put the anti-apartheid struggle in the national spotlight in 1984 when they refused to unload South African cargo from the Dutch ship, Nedlloyd Kimberly, at San Francisco’s Pier 80.
Although they unloaded the rest of the ship, the South African “bloody” cargo of steel, auto parts and wine remained in the ship’s hold for 10 days while community supporters held daily demonstrations outside protesting South Africa’s apartheid regime. At its peak, the demonstration reached an estimated 700 people. Employers tried to find another West Coast port to take the ship, but because of solidarity from other ILWU locals, no port was willing to accept the Nedlloyd Kimberly. Local 34 clerks played a crucial role in the action by identifying the South African cargo. The cargo was finally unloaded on the 11th day under threat of a federal injunction and fines for Local 10 and individual members.
“Fifty percent of the membership was black,” said Local 10 pensioner Lawrence Thibeaux who was the night-side Business Agent at the time. “To keep unloading cargo meant we were helping their government continue their program of apartheid.”
The contribution made by ILWU members to fighting apartheid was recognized by Mandela when he spoke at the Oakland Coliseum in 1990 shortly after his release from prison. “[The ILWU] established themselves as the front line of the anti-apartheid movement in the Bay Area,” Mandela said to the sold-out crowd.
The role of labor
Peter Cole, a professor of history at Western Illinois University is one of the few writers to highlight the important role played by labor unions in the global movement to end South African apartheid. “To my knowledge, no other US union engaged in work stoppages in support of the anti-apartheid struggle and ILWU was one of the few unions around the world to do so,” Cole said.
“The other documented instances of union workers taking strike action against South African apartheid were also dock workers—from the Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) and the Maritime Union of Australia.”
Long history of ILWU support for the anti-apartheid struggle
The striking of the Nedlloyd Kimberly was the result of extensive organizing efforts by Local 10’s Southern Africa Liberation Support Committee (SALSC). The rank and file committee of black and white workers was formed in 1976 when Local 10 passed a resolution authored by member Leo Robinson after the Soweto student uprising and subsequent brutal repression by South African police.
SALSC was likely the first antiapartheid group formed in a labor organization. They raised awareness and material support for South Africa and other freedom struggles across the subcontinent including Mozambique, Namibia and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).
In the 1970’s and 80’s Robinson with SALSC-member Larry Wright screened the documentary, Last Grave at Dimbaza, along the coast which helped to lay the foundation for the Nedlloyd Kimberly action.
After screening the film to 400 Local 10 members in 1984, Robinson offered a motion to boycott South African cargo on the next Nedlloyd line vessel that arrived.
Robinson, who passed away in January of 2013, was honored posthumously by the government of South Africa. Ebrahim Rassol, the South African Ambassador to the United States, presented the Nelson Mandela Humanitarian Award to Robinson’s widow, Mrs. Johnnie Bell Robinson, at Local 10’s March 2013 membership meeting where Robinson was recognized for his leadership in the Bay Area anti-apartheid movement.
Decades of opposition
The striking of the Nedlloyd Kimberly in 1984 was a part of long tradition in the ILWU of workers using their power on the docks to fight for social justice at home and abroad. In 1935 Local 10 dock workers refused to load metal that was bound for the war machines of fascist Italy and Japan. In the 1970s, Local 10 members refused to load US-made military supplies being shipped to Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
The ILWU Dispatcher newspaper began shining a spotlight on apartheid in 1948, the year the racist system was formally instituted by the South African National Party. Coverage by The Dispatcher increased in the 1950s and 60s as the anti-apartheid struggle began to heat up. A 1960 Dispatcher editorial drew comparisons between the South African system of segregation and Jim Crow in the American South. The editorial also noted the similarities between the brutal repressions by police forces in both countries of movements for social justice.
Also in 1960, the Longshore Caucus endorsed a boycott of South African Cargo. This resolution laid the foundation for a Local 10 boycott of a ship carrying South African cargo in 1962. Anti-apartheid activists held a community picket at Pier 19 in San Francisco protesting the Dutch ship Raki which was carrying hemp, coffee and asbestos from South Africa.
Over 100 Local 10 members refused to cross the community picket and the ship remained unloaded for both the day and night shifts. In 1963 The Dispatcher published a letter from Acting Secretary-General of the South African Congress of Trade Unions, John Gaetsewe, thanking ILWU members for their solidarity in the fight against apartheid.
In the 1970’s and 80’s, the ILWU general convention passed numerous resolutions against apartheid and racial injustice throughout Southern Africa. Other resolutions criticized US policy of “business as usual” with South Africa’s apartheid regime. In 1976, Local 10, Local 13, the International Executive Board and the Southern California District Council supported a boycott of South African and Rhodesian cargo and in 1977 Local 6 set up a South African support committee.
As early as 1978 the ILWU began the process of divesting pension fund monies from companies that did business with South Africa. Because the pension fund is jointly managed with the employers, ILWU activists had to lobby the employers to support the divestment policy.
Local 26 President Luisa Gratz recalled that in the early 1980’s ILWU warehouse workers at Thrifty Drug Stores in Southern California discovered that the store was selling flannel shirts made in South Africa. “We approached the company when we found this out and told them we did not want to handle these South African goods. To their credit, Thrifty removed the product from their stores and warehouses and discontinued the item.” In April of 1985, then ILWU International President Jimmy Herman, International Secretary-Treasurer Curtis McClain, Local 6 President Al Lannon and IBU Patrolman Charlie Clarke were arrested for civil disobedience along with other labor activists at a sit-in at the offices of South African Airways.
During the 1985 ILWU General Convention, Harry Bridges joined convention delegates at large anti-apartheid demonstration on the campus of UC Berkeley.
“The decades-long activism among rank-and-file members of the ILWU is a wonderful example of the power of ordinary people to make the world more just,” said Professor Cole. “Few historians have, thus far, investigated the important role of workers and unions in the American branch of the global fight against apartheid. Fortunately, South Africans–including none other than Nelson Mandela–very much appreciated the centrality of working class power to their cause. That Mandela thanked the ILWU for its 1984 boycott of the Nedlloyd Kimberly is one example.
The South African ambassador to the USA honoring Leo Robinson, posthumously, is another. I hope that the ILWU continues to take such principled stands when needed. And, it will be needed!”
“Harry Bridges and Nelson Mandela both understood that the struggle for workers and the struggle for civil rights was the same fight,” said Melvin Mackay. “That ILWU members used their power on the docks to support the freedom struggle in South Africa reflects the best traditions of this union: solidarity, racial equality, internationalism and working class power.”
One-hundred and twenty lucky ILWU Longshore Division members attended an intensive 6-day “History and Traditions Conference” in San Francisco on December 1-6. The event was planned by the ILWU Coast Longshore Division’s Education Committee and featured a host of outside experts who joined ILWU officers and leaders for the jam-packed agenda.
Knowing the history
The event opened with remarks from ILWU International President Bob McEllrath who welcomed participants and urged them to learn more about the union’s history in order to be better prepared for the future. “We’re facing some big fights and need all hands on deck,” said McEllrath. After just 20 minutes of preliminaries, the Conference quickly got down to business and involved all participants in an exercise, led by Local 63 member Patricia Aguirre who chairs the ILWU Longshore Education Committee.
Exercise reveals unity
Aguirre said a central goal of the Conference would be to gather lessons from the union’s history – and apply them to current challenges, including the upcoming negotiations for the new Longshore and Clerk Contract that expires on July 1, 2014. With participants divided into a dozen small discussion groups, Aguirre asked each team to rank the various factors that would be essential for building union power and winning a good contract in 2014. The conference room exploded in animated discussion as members at each table debated the relative importance of many factors that could make the union stronger – and a better contract more likely. While some differences were noted between the groups, a consensus quickly developed around ranking the top three factors needed to build a strong union and win good contracts in 2014:
1. Support and solidarity of Longshore workers.
2. Well informed workforce who knows their contract.
3. Strength & support from community allies.
Day two began with comments and context from Coast Committeeman Leal Sundet who reviewed the extensive materials provided to all participants, including three books: “Solidarity Stories, An Oral History of the ILWU” by Harvey Schwartz; “Reviving the Strike” by Joe Burns; and Richard Brisbin’s “A Strike Like No Other Strike: Law and Resistance During the Pittston Coal Strike of 1989-1990.” Other materials were distributed throughout the week “I think you’ll see a clear pattern if you read these materials and listen to the speakers,” said Sundet. “The labor laws in this country, along with the courts and agencies like the National Labor Relations Board, are not our friends. They’re all working to limit what workers and unions can do, while protecting business and commerce so they can operate as freely as possible.”
West Coast longshore history was the focus for the remainder of the day, with the topic divided into three periods (up to 1934, the 1934 strike, and post-1934), each featuring a noted labor history expert.
Retired San Francisco State University History Professor Robert Cherny provided an overview of West Coast longshoring from 1848 to 1934. He emphasized the role of the Gold Rush in launching San Francisco’s status as the top West Coast port for 70 years until being eclipsed by Los Angeles in the 1920’s. Cherny provided interesting statistics, including the fact that 83% of San Francisco Longshore workers in the 1920’s were either immigrants or born to immigrant families. He also surveyed developments at other ports, including Los Angeles, which was a sleepy backwater until 1899 when millions in federal dollars helped build San Pedro’s breakwater that transformed the Port.
In Portland and Tacoma, the lumber boom and growing agricultural exports fueled the rise of their ports, eclipsed by the Port of Seattle in the 1890’s which grew rapidly by serving as a staging point for the massive Klondike Gold Rush.
First Longshore unions
Cherny used the bulk of his time to explain the lengthy and difficult effort by longshore workers to improve conditions on the waterfront. The first effort to organize longshore unions on the West Coast was undertaken in 1853 by San Francisco’s “Riggers and Stevedores” (terms used at the time to encompass longshore work). Twenty-five years later, Portland workers formed their own union of “Stevedores, Longshoremen and Riggers” in 1878. Eight years later, workers in Seattle and Tacoma formed similar unions. A “National Longshoremen’s Union” was formed by workers on the Great Lakes in 1892, winning a nationwide charter from the American Federation of Labor (AFL). They renamed themselves two years later as the International Longshoreman’s Association (ILA) and quickly chartered new West Coast locals, beginning with I.L.A. Local 38 in Everett, WA. By 1902, there were 16 ports with ILA locals along the West Coast.
Limited success & decline
Each local union was limited to a contract covering only their port, which made workers vulnerable to “whipsawing” by employers who sought to pit workers against each other in order to drive down wages. Sporadic strikes at individual ports occurred in the early 1900’s. The first efforts to coordinate “coastwise” strikes happened in 1916 and failed. The First World War began in 1914 and ended in 1918, with the U.S. entering the fray in 1917. Union officials at the AFL were swept up in a patriotic fervor – discouraging strikes and encouraging union members to enlist.
Labor organizing continued among Longshore workers who attempted more strikes in 1919 and 1921 that failed. General strikes were also attempted in Seattle and Helena, Montana, but a conservative mood followed the war, climaxing with raids against immigrant militant union leaders, including members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and those inspired by Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 that called for factories to be run by worker-run councils.
The combination of government and employer repression, along with post-war economic prosperity, left most unions – including maritime unions –weak and disorganized. Most fell apart or barely managed to survive during the 1920’s. Working conditions deteriorated, with stagnant wages and hazardous work that disabled an average of 5 workers per eight-hour shifts involving 2,000 men in San Francisco. Professor Cherny concluded his talk by explaining how the 1929 Great Depression set the stage for a resurgence of militant organizing that eventually turned the tide and gave rise to the ILWU.
Resurgence & triumph
ILWU Librarian and Archivist Robin Walker chronicled the successful effort by Longshore and other maritime workers to organize a coastwise strike and contract fight in 1934 that secured a uniform coastwise contract with jointly managed dispatch halls.
While emphasizing the central role played by workers who joined in a nationwide upsurge of militant union organizing during the early 1930’s, Walker also emphasized the critical importance of new legislation enacted during the early Depression years.
The Norris-LaGuardia Act passed by Congress in 1932, prohibited employers from using court injunctions to ban strikes, and outlawed “yellow” or “fink unions” controlled by employers. Franklin Roosevelt’s National Industrial Recovery Act passed in 1933 included Section 7(a) that protected the right of workers to organize, negotiate with employers and strike. Both laws passed in response to the economic chaos of the early Depression, and massive, militant protests by unemployed workers who demanded jobs.
1934 waterfront strike
Despite the new laws, the 1934 West Coast maritime strike was an immense struggle, with employers using the same brutal strategies to defeat previous union efforts by Longshore workers. Employers hired strikebreakers, private police, goons and spies. Massive advertising campaigns attempted to smear strikers and confuse the public. Employer-friendly politicians were mobilized against the union. Municipal police forces attacked strikers at every port, often coordinating efforts with company thugs and anti-union vigilante committees.
Following the death of seven strikers and supporters, a general strike in San Francisco, and massive resistance at ports up and down the coast, employers finally agreed to meet most of the union demands, including recognition of the new Longshore union, a single contract with uniform standards for all West Coast U.S. ports, jointly-managed dispatch halls, wage increases, limitations on hours and better working conditions.
New organizing, new laws
In addition to creating a union that would eventually become the ILWU, the West Coast strike helped pressure Roosevelt and Congress to pass the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in 1935 that guaranteed the right of workers to form unions, negotiate contracts and take action. Roosevelt made a point of signing the NLRA exactly one year after Bloody Thursday, on July 5, 1935, in Tacoma, Washington.
The West Coast waterfront strike helped trigger massive union organizing campaigns throughout the U.S. The impact was boosted by other dramatic labor actions in 1934 including a general strike in Minneapolis led by radical Teamsters and a bloody strike at the Auto-Lite plant in Toledo that killed two workers and injured 200. In the years following their waterfront victory, Longshore workers reached out to help organize warehouse and factory workers near the docks, a move that would become known to ILWU members as “The March Inland.”
How laws shaped unions
San Francisco State University Professor John Logan provided an important perspective on how labor laws shaped union behavior and possibilities. Logan noted that before pro-labor laws were passed in the 1930’s, unions faced brutal repression from employers. He said that new labor laws passed in 1932, 1933 and 1935 were one factor that led to a dramatic rise in union membership and re-shaped American politics for decades that followed.
Workers forced the law
But in addition to new laws, Professor Logan emphasized the importance to militant mass labor organizing led by activists who believed in “organizing the unorganized” and empowering the working class. Thousands of dedicated activists helped organize millions of union members during the 1930’s and through World War II. It was the fear of these militant mass actions that forced politicians – led by President Franklin Roosevelt – to pass pro-labor laws.
During the Second World War, unions including the ILWU agreed to moderate demands and curtail strikes in order to support the national cause of defeating fascism in Germany and Japan. The governments of the U.S. and Britain also established a wary but formal alliance with the Soviet Union in order to defeat fascism.
Post war reversal
After the war, political opinion in the U.S. shifted quickly against unions. The alliance with the Soviet Union was replaced with a “Cold War” waged against former Soviet allies. Labor unions – particularly those with leftist leaders like Harry Bridges – came under fierce attack. Anti-Communist crusades were led by Congressmen Joseph McCarthy, Richard Nixon and hundreds of other national and local politicians in both parties. Witch hunts were launched to expose “Reds” teaching in schools, working in government offices, acting or writing in Hollywood or employed by private industry.
The FBI monitored and harassed millions of Americans, including many ILWU members, who were suspected of being “un-American.” The horrors of Joseph Stalin’s reign of terror in Russia confirmed the\ public’s worst fears about the Soviet Union and discredited radicals who had staked their hopes and dreams on a belief that the Soviet Union was a worker friendly alternative to U.S. capitalism.
When the ILWU and other union members tried to gain ground through strikes after the war ended, they encountered hostile politicians and a not-so friendly public. President Truman set the tone early after the war by ordering the U.S. Army to break a railroad strike in 1946. Industrial leaders pushed hard for legislation to restrict union power, portraying unions and strikes as dangerous threats to American democracy. Special hostility was directed at unions with left-wing leaders, such as the ILWU, which had refused to purge its ranks of activists. The ILWU left the CIO in 1950 to avoid expulsion.
It was in this context that Professor Logan explained details of the anti-worker Taft-Hartley Act, that was passed by Congress in 1947, which:
- Outlawed strikes intended to establish union jurisdiction.
- Outlawed wildcat strikes (unsanctioned actions by union members).
- Outlawed strikes over political issues that concerned union members and the public.
- Outlawed “secondary” boycotts and picketing.
- Outlawed mass pickets so employers could more easily employ strikebreakers.
- Outlawed union shops so that union membership became optional.
- Outlawed donations of union funds to support pro-workers candidates. The Taft-Hartley Act also restricted many rights granted just 12 years earlier by the 1935 National Labor Relations Act:
- Taft-Hartley allowed unions to be charged with “Unfair Labor Practice” violations.
- Taft-Hartley required unions to provide 80-day notices before holding economic strikes.
- Taft-Hartley prohibited federal employees from striking.
- Taft-Hartley allowed individual states to adopt their own anti-union laws and restrictions.
- • Taft-Hartley granted the President new rights to break strikes with court injunctions.
- Taft-Hartley allowed employers to sue unions for damages from “secondary” boycotts.
Despite union opposition, the growing right-wing tide and power of big business made Taft-Hartley impossible to stop. In 1948, the ILWU and a few other unions backed a third party led by Henry Wallace. It was hoped that the “Progressive Party” could rally union members and working class support, but the effort failed miserably; winning no electoral votes and only 2.7% of the popular vote – mostly from New York.
Longshore courage in 1948
Amidst this seemingly hopeless political situation, ILWU Longshore workers dared to confront their aggressive maritime employers and hostile politicians in 1948 by challenging provisions of the new Taft-Hartley legislation and organizing a bold strike.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decided to impose a new provision of Taft-Hartley on ILWU members that required workers to vote on the employers’ “last, best and final” contract offer. When longshore employers issued their “last, best and final offer,” Longshore Caucus delegates recommended that members boycott the election proceedings.
In a remarkable show of solidarity, not a single one of the 26,965 members cast a ballot. Employers responded to the standoff by announcing there was one issue that must be addressed, which they said was “Communist leadership in the ILWU.” Again, members refused to be divided and launched a strike effort that lasted 95 days. When it was over, the ILWU’s unity prevailed, and employers agreed to back-down and accept a contract with better terms for workers.
Mine worker solidarity
A similar story of courageous union members overcoming powerful employers and Taft-Hartley restrictions was told by retired professor Richard Brisbin of West Virginia University. He explained how the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), like the ILWU, had been built on militant struggles during the 1930’s, when the union was led by President John L. Lewis who also founded the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) that launched massive union organizing efforts in the 1930’s. Lewis and his team of radical organizers formed the CIO – with immediate support from Harry Bridges – because the labor establishment in the American Federation of Labor (AFL) was refusing to organize millions of industrial workers who weren’t wanted by narrow craft unions.
Like Bridges, John L. Lewis remained in office four decades, was respected within his union and became notorious for making alliances with Communists, and a willingness to confront employers with militant strikes.
When Lewis left the leadership in the 1960’s, a period of corruption ensued, leading to the 1969 murder of union reformer Jock Yablonski who’s killing was ordered by UMWA incumbent President Tony Boyle. Reformers eventually won control of their union and led a series of militant strikes.
Striking Pittston Coal
One of the most famous battles was the 1989 strike against the Pittston Coal Company, triggered when the company dropped out of the coal employers association, then refused to pay pension and health payments covering 1500 retired miners, widows and disabled miners. Pittston warned employees they would be replaced if there was a strike, so miners remained on the job without a contract for another 16 months, before finally striking in April of 1990. UMWA members established a “Camp Solidarity” outpost that accommodated up to 2,000 miners and supporters; built a network of
40,000 workers who engaged in wildcat strikes, actively involved family members including a group of 500 militant women, and conducted a series of dramatic actions – including the non-violent occupations of Pittston properties and road blockades – all of which eventually forced the company to settle, sign a contract and resume paying health and welfare benefits. The struggle also generated millions in legal fees and court fines, most of which stemmed from violating court injunctions, many related to the Taft-Hartley Act. The union was eventually successful in reducing some, but not all, of the court fines.
How the ILWU works
Ray Familathe, International Vice President (Mainland), walked participants through a detailed explanation of the ILWU’s current structure. Familathe noted some new developments, including the addition of a Panama Canal Division.
Information about the non-longshore aspects of the ILWU were provided by ILWU historian Harvey Schwartz, who curates the Oral History Collection at the ILWU library. Joining Schwartz was Local 8 member Adam Wetzel.
The ILWU experience in Hawaii, Canada and Alaska was also covered in the conference. ILWU International Vice President (Hawaii) Wesley Furtado provided a detailed overview of past organizing and current struggles by non-longshore workers living in the Hawaiian Islands. He covered the dramatic political changes that resulted from ILWU efforts to organize pineapple and sugarcane workers in the past, and current efforts to organize tourism, service and retail workers on the island.
“The ILWU helped ease the transition from plantations to tourism where the ILWU is fighting for good union jobs,” said Furtado. ILWU Canada President Mark Gordienko hoped to attend the Conference but was unable to join due to a scheduling conflict. Gordienko prepared a letter expressing fraternal greetings to conference participants on behalf of the members of ILWU Canada. A three-page history of ILWU Canada, prepared by Local 500 pensioner Dave Lomas was also distributed.
ILWU Alaska President Chuck Wendt was on hand to present a summary of the challenges and opportunities facing union members in the 49th State. His overview covered ILWU activities from the southern part of the state in the nation, to the ILWU presence in Dutch Harbor, a rugged fishing town situated in the remote Aleutian Islands chain.
ILWU Coast Committeeman Ray Ortiz, Jr., explained “How the ILWU Longshore Division Works,” explaining the various committees and procedures. Local 94 President Danny Miranda explained the historical and present-day status of Walking Bosses and Foremen in the ILWU.
Safety & health
Longshore Division Safety Committee Chair Tim Podue and Safety Committee member Adrian Diaz joined with Local 91 President Fred Gilliam, Local 13 member Alberto Bonilla and Local 10 President Mike Villeggiante, to explain the history of the Pacific Coast Marine Safety Code. The presentation and discussion covered the ILWU’s efforts to reduce hazards and risks on the job, and their Committee’s involvement with federal and state rulemaking and enforcement agencies.
A discussion of the historical development and evolution of the Longshore and Clerk Contract was presented by Local 4’s Brad Clark, and Local 19’s Rich Austin, Jr. who Co-Chairs the Division’s Grain Negotiating Committee.
A panel composed of ILWU Librarian and Archivist Robin Walker, with ILWU attorneys Rob Remar and Rob Lavitt, explained how ILWU Longshore Division members were hit hard with federal court injunctions under the Taft Hartley Act soon after the new law was passed in 1947. Injunctions were imposed during the 1948 Longshore strike that lasted 95 days. Longshore workers in that strike managed to protect their jointly-managed dispatch halls and raise wages despite efforts by employers and the government to crush the ILWU with Taft-Hartley. The government also used Taft-Hartley in 2002 and 2008.
A panel moderated by Kirsten Donovan, Coast Longshore Division Director of Contract Administration and Arbitration, provided a detailed discussion of efforts to protect Longshore Division jurisdiction under a set of challenging labor laws, including the National Labor Relations Act, subsequently modified by the Taft-Hartley Act. The labor laws are being used by employers on a daily basis to attack ILWU members and their union. Coast Committeeman Leal Sundet discussed the Contracts’ Maintenance and Repair (M&R) provisions.
Attorney Rob Remar discussed the ILWU’s struggle with International Container Terminal Services Inc., (ICTSI), the rogue Philippine-based employer who operates Terminal 6 at the Port of Portland. Although ICTSI is a PMA employer, they have openly defied the Longshore Contract.
Attorney Eleanor Morton discussed jurisdictional challenges in Southern California. Attorney Rob Lavitt discussed how the rogue grain companies, Marubeni/Columbia and Mitsui/United, are using federal labor laws to secure court injunctions that limit the right of union members to picket barges transporting the company’ s grain on the Columbia River, while the illegal lockout continues against ILWU grain workers.
Welfare Plan history
Coast Benefits Specialist John Castanho, with attorneys Chris Hwang and Peter Saltzman, provided an extensive history of the union’s effort to improve health benefits to Longshore members over the past 64 years. Castanho traced the progression of an innovative but modest plan that began in 1949 – to the comprehensive services provided under today’s plan.
President Rich Austin, Sr., of the Pacific Coast Pensions’ Association (PCPA), closed the 5th day of the conference by delivering an address that explained the historical role played by the PCPA – an organization of retired Longshore Division activists who evolved from a small group in 1968 to the dozen chapters in today’s network. Austin also noted that ILWU Canada has two Longshore pensioner clubs.
After citing examples of the PCPA’s work to promote domestic and international labor solidarity, holding the PMA accountable for maintaining quality health benefits, and supporting the ILWU’s organizing and political action efforts, Austin concluded by citing a motion passed at the 2013 Pacific Coast Pensioners Association to “…do all we can\ to help win a good contract in 2014.”
ILWU International Secretary Treasurer Willie Adams joined ILWU Legislative Director Lindsay McLaughlin to kick-off the 5th day of the History and Traditions Conference. Adams emphasized the ILWU’s rank-and-file culture and need to support politicians who understand the union’s concerns and are willing to fight for working class issues. Adams told of a recent trip to Washington he led with Longshore Legislative Committee Chair Max Vekich, Jr. of Local 52, Local 8 President Jeff Smith, Local 19 member Dan McKisson and Grain Negotiating Committee Co-Chair Rich Austin, Jr. of Local 19.
They met with administration officials and members of Congress about the lockout by rogue grain companies Marubeni/Columbia and Mitsui/United. Adams said the upcoming Longshore Contract negotiations are a time when the union will need help from politicians in Washington who share our concerns, and he urged everyone to consider contributing to the ILWU Political Action Fund. Legislative Director Lindsay McLaughlin explained the difficulty of working with members of Congress, where worker-friendly legislation has been blocked by an extreme group of anti-union Republicans in the House of Representatives. McLaughlin outlined the union’s continuing effort to address problems with port security and Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) cards, and the latest efforts to address the grain lockout.
International President (Mainland) Ray Familathe introduced a special guest who came to the conference from London; Sharon James, Dockers Section Secretary of the International Transport Workers Federation. She provided a compelling overview of the global struggle by dockworkers against powerful international employers. James noted the similar strategic pattern employed by the handful of companies who control the world’s terminal operations. She said that companies are privatizing public ports, outsourcing labor or seeking “individual contracts” with workers to bypass unions, and investing heavily in automation systems.
James said the challenge is for docker unions to coordinate, share as much information as possible, and use the power of solidarity to take on the global employers. Vice President Familathe reinforced her comments and said that the ILWU will continue practicing international solidarity, not just to help other unions, but because it benefits the ILWU as well.
Reviving the strike
Joe Burns, veteran union negotiator, labor lawyer and author of the book, “Reviving the Strike: How Working People Can Regain Power and Transform America,” spoke at the Conference. Burns said workers and unions won’t recover from their current position of weakness without organizing bold, powerful strikes that can bring industries to a halt; just like unions did in the 1930’s until the early\ 1960’s. He praised the ILWU’s willingness to battle powerful employers. He believes that unions aren’t likely to survive in their present form by relying on political contributions, lobbying and contract negotiations that approach employers from a position of weakness.
Organizing to win
The remainder of days five and six were spent exploring new skills and approaches to increase unity among Longshore Division members as the battle for a new contract looms ahead in the summer of 2014. The last session on day five was led by the team of Patricia Aguirre, Chair of the Longshore Education Committee and Teresa Conrow, longtime labor organizer and educator. Their presentation focused on a comparing and contrasting two different approaches to unionism which they described as “servicing versus organizing.” Through a host of examples including contract negotiations, health and safety, legislative action and education, participants were asked to consider the strengths and weaknesses of solving problems by organizing or servicing. The conclusion didn’t require participants to choose one or the other approach; it asked everyone to suggest an ideal balance that combined the best of both approaches.
The last day began with a presentation by Coast Communications Director Jennifer Sargent, who delivered a presentation that compared traditional union communication methods (union meetings, newspapers, letters, flyers) with the challenges posed by new forms of social media (websites, Twitter, FaceBook). She emphasized the problems that can arise when well-intentioned members communicate using social media – without realizing that their communication is easily monitored by employers and the government. Sargent urged participants to carefully consider the impact of what they share online – before hitting the “send button” – by imagining how the information could be used against the union by employers and government agencies, including the National Labor Relations Board.
The final exercise at the History and Traditions Conference was led by the team of Patricia Aguirre and Teresa Conrow, who asked everyone to consider the advantages of building a “member-to- member” communication network in each Longshore local. They started by posing a question: “Are the largest group of co-workers in your union involved, not involved or anti-union?” Most participants agreed that the largest group of workers were the ones who aren’t actively involved. Aguirre and Conrow noted this was typical of most unions, and suggested that a “one-on-one” or “member-to-member” approach was the best way to reach and involve this group.
Before the session ended, most participants filled out a form with the names of co-workers they could invite to get more involved. A series of educational events was suggested, where less-involved members to could attend and feel welcome.
“The key to building the network is personal conversations with members that have us listen to their concerns and urge them to get more involved in something they care about,” said Aguirre. Concluding remarks for the Conference were delivered by ILWU Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe, who thanked everyone for spending six days together to learn about the ILWU’s history and traditions. “Let’s go back and put what we’ve learned into action,” said Familathe who recognized and thanked the Coast Education Committee and staff for organizing the event.