Elections have serious consequences for ILWU members and their families – especially for ILWU longshore workers who recently found themselves being targeted by Republican members in Congress. Here’s how it happened.
In 2014, Republicans took over the United States Senate and increased their majority in the House of Representatives. The Democratic Party played it safe and failed to outline a progressive agenda for working families. In the absence of a Democratic agenda to vote for, voters found something to vote against, registering their anger against growing unfairness in the economy.
Attitudes measured by exit polls were negative in the extreme, with 8 in 10 saying they were dissatisfied by the performance of Congress, and 54 percent giving the thumbs down to Obama. A majority of voters were unhappy with the U.S. economic system itself, with nearly two thirds saying it’s unfair and favors the wealthy – and only 32 percent saying it’s fair to most people.
Instead of changing the economy to work for the majority of Americans, the newly elected Republican Congress decided to throw their weight behind the rich and powerful, trampling the working class.
One unifying belief held by the Republican leadership is that they do not like strong unions, so they have focused their efforts against a strong union – the ILWU – that fights without apology for good wages, health and pension benefits, and safe workplaces.
In the last month, U.S. Senators, Senator Cory Gardner (Republican from Colorado) and Senator John Thune (Republican from South Dakota) made speeches on the floor of the U.S. Senate, asking other Senators to support their efforts to punish the ILWU for standing up to employers. Senator Gardner proposed legislation to extend powers to Governors to meddle in the collective bargaining process between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association.
Senator Thune introduced legislation (The Port Performance Act) which mandates that the federal government monitor productivity and gather statistics on longshore workers.
Unfortunately, a part of the Port Performance Act (S. 1298) was included in a comprehensive transportation bill that passed the Senate.
Senator Mazie Hirono (Democrat- Hawaii) prepared an amendment to the bill that would have struck the port metrics section from the bill, but Senate Republicans refused to allow her to offer the amendment on the floor. The Senate Republican leadership also slipped in a provision that would allow automation costs to be funded through federal government grants to ports.
The ILWU Washington office and the ILWU grassroots legislation action committee are working long hours to stop the Port Performance Act and government-funded automation from being considered in the House of Representatives. We are engaged in meetings with House members who serve on the Transportation Committee including moderate Republicans.
We are broadening our coalition to include port managers and some terminal operators who may want to work with the ILWU rather than work against us.
If the Port Performance Act passes both Houses and is signed by President Obama, it would cause many negative – and some unexpected consequences.
It would impose a top-down system of federal productivity measurements on port workers. The bill calls on the federal government to collect metrics from ports, including a count of the number of crane moves made by operators at each of our nation’s largest ports. If the legislation becomes law, some unscrupulous terminal operators will try to speed up operations on the docks in order to appear more appealing to shippers, endangering worker health and safety. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the number of accident reports in the longshore industry at 6.6 accidents per 100 workers. This is twice the rate of accidents in the coal mining industry. If the proposed legislation becomes law, accidents are likely to increase, with more worker deaths and permanently disabilities.
A provision added to the Senate Transportation bill lists electronic roads and driverless trucks within ports as a project that could be funded through federal freight transportation grants. If this federal subsidy is implemented at maritime facilities, funding for automation projects will expand because of federal tax dollars, not market demands, and the number of workers employed at our nation’s ports could be significantly reduced. Driverless trucks and electronic roads will not increase overall port productivity – but they will destroy thousands of jobs and harm local communities, while the federal subsidies create a windfall for terminal operators – most of whom are foreign-owned.
ILWU members can play an important role in stopping ant-union legislation from becoming law. Your member of Congress can be reached at 202-225-3121. Tell your Representative the following:
- You are concerned the Senate Transportation bill has been combined with the Port Performance Act and a government subsidy for automation on the docks.
- The Senate Transportation bill would kill jobs by funding driverless trucks.
- The Port Performance Act will lead to increased accidents, fatalities and injuries.
- The Act will harm communities who depend on good jobs at our nation’s ports.
- Ask that your member of Congress vote against any bill that includes these measures.
This report was prepared by the ILWU’s Legislative Director, Lindsay McLaughlin.
Members of the Maritime Union Australia, Queensland Branch in Brisbane recently recorded a solidarity message to the ILWU while on the picket line.
Press Release - Houston IWW, August 11, 2015
The fight against Felipe Serna has concluded. Serna wrote a check to Hector, Pancho, and Mauricio which was promptly cashed this morning.
After our letter delivery, folks will recall that we organized a phone blast of The Growing Tree daycare and Felipe’s cell. It was very effective; his phone didn’t stop ringing and he was in tears begging for mercy. But when the calls ceased, his verbal commitment to settling turned into indignation as he failed to follow through and after a few days texted us an image of his “lawyer’s” business card, the second attorney he had threatened us with.
So we got indignant too and last night covered the surrounding neighborhood of The Growing Tree with “Wanted for Wage Theft” posters with his image prominently on the front. We made sure to leave one on the front door of the daycare. The next morning he wrote a check.
This is an important first victory for the Houston IWW and we couldn’t have done it without your support. Thanks to the folks who showed up at the ass crack of dawn for the demand delivery and thanks to the many people who participated in the phone blast.
While we can’t know if Serna will steal wages again, he will certainly consider the costs. And that is what we want every employer in Houston to do; consider that there are forces that they will have to contend with when they steal from labor-power.
We also know that to seriously challenge wage theft and to build workers power, we need an active and fighting working class, something we cannot create by sheer will. Instead, we do what we can with the resources we have until that becomes a general condition. In addition to fighting on the job, we need to fight against Adrian Garcia, the police, and ICE, we need to organize with detainees against incarceration, we need to defend our homes and neighborhoods from landlords and banks, we need to fight the grassroots Right and the fascists among them, we need to fight against racist school boards and curriculum, etc.
The IWW is committed to fighting against all of these forces. An injury to one is an injury all!!
By Luz Sierra - Miami IWW, August 5, 2015
Five years had passed since I first began working as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). A CNA is a health care provider that assists Registered Nurses (RN’s). They are the ones considered to do the “dirty work” in healthcare: changing, bathing, feeding, and providing any form of assistance to patients that RN’s do not have the time or opportunity to provide in today’s fast-paced and multi-tasking health care environment. Through providing care to patients, I have seen many of the atrocities of today’s society, especially with mental health.
The past year I was offered a patient companion (sitter) position at a local hospital after being laid off at my previous workplace for organizing. It is a pretty chill job. Depending on the census, I either provide one-to-one care or one-to-two patients care who are at risk to fall and are under Baker Act (a Florida mental health law that forces a patient to remain in the facility and to be under supervision up to 72 hours because of potential harm to self or others), or high risk patients likely to be injured. Throughout the majority of my employment there, I have mostly seen patients with mental health disorders. Among them are the elderly that are diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. In my experience, they are not given enough or any treatment at all. They are only given medication that sedates them for hours or they are simply ignored by RN’s. An individual with such an ailment could become very anxious, agitated, and disorientated which leads to many problems. For instance, they often attempt to get out of bed unsafely due to memory loss, they can remove their intravenous therapy (IV) if they are bothered by it, and they will sometimes attempt to physically hurt people they do not recognize as they become anxious and fearful of everyone. The list can go on. Mental health disorders are not easily treated, so there are moments when you will need help from CNA’s, RN’s, or even administration. Unfortunately such help is non-existent at times, like one day at work when I was assigned a patient that had Alzheimer’s and was extremely confused.
On that day I received the patient in a difficult situation. The first moment I arrived to her room, she was already punching and kicking the CNA who was trying to prevent her from getting out of bed. The CNA warned me to be careful since she was very combatant; she wasn’t lying. I spent the first two hours preventing her from getting out of bed while she attempted to repeatedly punch and kick me. Eventually a physical therapist stopped by and walked her to the bathroom and around the room. Afterwards, the nurse provided her medication that calmed and reoriented her. After taking her medication, the patient began to talk to me kindly, telling me about her life until she fell asleep for about thirty minutes. When she woke up, the medication was no longer effective so she was agitated and confused again. She wanted to leave her room, but wasn’t allowed to, so she was pushing and hitting me, and screaming loudly for help. I wanted to back away from her since that’s what you are taught when dealing with an aggravated patient, but I couldn’t as she was trying to get up and placing herself at risk of falling. I called the nurse to tell her what was happening, but all she did was stop by and talk to the patient. When she left, the patient became aggressive again.
During the next three hours I called the nurse five times, but she didn’t do anything other than try to calm the patient through talking to her. There’s no problem with that but if the patient is hurting herself and trying to attack caregivers there should be a better alternative. I am not a big advocate of medication, but in my opinion, it’s better to sedate a patient in order to prevent any further harm if the RN is not going to be there 24/7 and if a patient companion has limited options to prevent a patient from hurting anyone or herself. Luckily, another nurse stopped by and took the patient to visit her husband who was also hospitalized. I was ordered to stay with her as she visited her husband. She was calm for a while, but then became agitated and wanted to leave the room in order to search for her children who weren’t there. I had to take her back to her room where she didn’t want to stay, and spent another three hours walking back and forth from her room to her husband’s room. Along the way she would hit and scream at me while the nursing staff were all watching and did nothing.
By members of the Merseyside IWW – Liverpool IWW, August 5, 2015
About twenty people met in Liverpool Central Library’s meeting room 2 last night, as part of IWW national secretary Dave Pike’s speaking tour of England, Scotland and Wales. Dave’s presentation – called ‘Your Class Needs You’ – attracted a mixture of members, prospective new wobblies (or ‘probblies’ in IWW lingo) and people who were just curious what the IWW they knew from tales of Joe Hill were up to nearly a century after his murder.
It was a lot less eventful than the last time Liverpool IWW met on William Brown Street. In 1921, scouse wobblies led by the writer George Garrett occupied the front of the Walker Art Gallery, and were met with a full scale police riot.
For all us IWW members love the old stories, this was evening very much focused on the IWW of today, and how a new generation of relatively young, casualised workers are leading the way with some inspirational campaigns and struggles. We watched videos of workers from Starbucks, Jimmy Johns and London language schools fighting for improvements to their working lives.
The modern day Liverpool IWW are planning some big things over the next few months, and are thrilled to have settled into our new home of Liverpool Central Library. Watch this space, as well as our Facebook and Twitter. And yes, JOIN US! https://iww.org.uk/join