SAN FRANCISCO (July 7, 2014) – The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) today issued the following statement:
The parties have agreed to take a 72-hour break from negotiations on a new coast-wide contract while the ILWU attends to an unrelated negotiation taking place in the Pacific Northwest. During this break, starting at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, July 8, through 8 a.m. on Friday, July 11, the parties have agreed to extend the previous six-year contract, which expired last week. The PMA and ILWU are negotiating a new contract covering nearly 20,000 longshore workers at 29 West Coast ports.
Monday through Friday, my full-time job is cleaning restrooms at Van Nuys High School. But that work is not the hardest part of my life. The hardest part is saying goodbye to my 4-year-old son when he asks me not to go to work again. In order to make ends meet, I also work weekends and nights.
I know I’m lucky to have a full-time job as a facility attendant in the Los Angeles Unified School District. I’ve done that for 10 years, and some days are better than others, but I like the work, and my co-workers are a supportive second family. We don’t interact much with students, but those of us who do custodial work are eyes and ears for teachers and administrators. If I see a student needs help of any kind, I take pride in letting the right people know.
Click here to read more at The Washington Post.Issues: Labor Movement
Daimler Trucks debuted its self-driving “Future Truck 2025” during an on-highway test drive on a section of the autobahn near Magdeburg, Germany.
The truck uses the company’s Highway Pilot system to drive completely autonomously at speeds up to 53 mph. The system could be launched in production vehicles as early as 2025 if conditions permit, according to Daimler.
“Autonomous driving will revolutionize road freight transport and create major benefits for everyone involved. With the Future Truck 2025, Daimler Trucks is once again highlighting its pioneering role in innovative technologies and opening up a new era in truck transport.
“We aim to be the No. 1 manufacturer in this market of the future, which we believe will offer solid revenue and earnings potential,” Wolfgang Bernhard, the member of Daimler’s board of management responsible for Daimler trucks and buses, said in a statement.
Truck drivers for three companies that move cargo in and out of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach launched a strike early Monday morning, with the support of organizers of the Teamsters union the drivers are hoping to join.
The strike involves 120 drivers for three transport firms including Total Transportation Services Inc., Green Fleet Systems and Pacific 9. The drivers have staged strikes and labor actions in the past year, but this is the first time they've walked off the job with no plans to return.
Click here to read more at The Breakdown.Issues: Labor Movement
If you were outraged by the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, take a deep breath and get ready for the next battle over women’s rights.
A case that will affect millions of working women is on the Supreme Court docket for the term beginning Oct. 6. Young v. United Parcel Service will test the law prohibiting employment discrimination against pregnant women. And it’s anybody’s guess how this court will rule.
Click here to read more at The News & Advance.Issues: Labor Movement
UPS Inc. plans to invest $1 billion in its European operations in the next three to five years, chief financial officer Kurt Kuehn told a German newspaper, Reuters reported.
A majority of the investment would go to expanding the company’s logistics centers in Germany, one of the company’s fastest growing markets.
Kuehn said the company’s new strategy will be announced in November and involves acquisitions, especially in the health-care sector, according to Reuters.
In January 2013 ,UPS abandoned its $6.8 billion bid to buy European package carrier TNT Express NV after European regulators moved to block the deal. The company said it would focus on other acquisitions consistent with its long-term growth strategy.
UPS is ranked No. 1 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest U.S. and Canadian for-hire carriers.Issues: UPS
July 3, 2014: Chicago Local 710 secretary treasurer Pat Flynn has been charged by the Independent Review Board (IRB) with embezzling $58,000 in visa gift cards, violating his fiduciary duty, and exposing the local to legal liability in a cover-up.
Flynn was paid $482,543 by Local 710 members’ dues in 2013, plus an additional $44,900 in deferred income, making him the highest paid of all Teamster’ fat cats.
The 105-page investigative report and recommended charges indicates that the IRB has thoroughly investigated what happened with the gift cards during the years 2009-2012.
Each year Local 710 staff would provide a number of stewards with $150 gift cards. Flynn, the local secretary treasurer, would then direct the staff to purchase excess cards that were kept by him personally in his office, separate from other union property and money. The same thing happened with $25 gift cards purchased as prizes for union meeting attendance. The excess cards were not accounted for and were not shown as assets on the LM-2 or the monthly trustees’ reports, although the visa cards were as good as cash.
The report notes that Flynn’s various explanations for the scheme are not credible. “Flynn essentially claimed that since local funds had been converted into gift cards solely under his control, at that point magically he did not have to account for their use.” (pp 79-80)
The IRB points out that Flynn served as the local secretary treasurer since 2004, was an employee of the local for 33 years, had served on Hoffa’s General Executive Board, and studied accounting in college, so his claimed ignorance does not stand.
IRB procedures call for Hoffa to bring charges against Flynn, hold a hearing, and report the results to the IRB within 90 days, or decline to act. At that point the IRB will take over and make the final determination on the adequacy of actions taken.
The IRB exists to investigate and root out corruption in the Teamsters Union. Of the three members on the board one is chosen by Hoffa and the General Executive Board, one by the US Attorney, and one selected jointly by both.Issues: Local Union Reform
- Work To Rule: Organizing The One Big Union At Starbucks
- Boston Wobblies Defend Harvard Workers And Local Bus Drivers
- Kentucky GMB Officially Chartered!
- History Of The IWW In Grand Rapids, Michigan
- The Disunited Food & Commercial Workers
- France: The Long Strike At La Poste
Download a Free PDF of this issue.
Former Louisville Teamsters leader Jerry T. Vincent Jr. was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury on charges that he embezzled union funds, took illegal union loans and conducted false record keeping, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky.
According to the indictment, Vincent, president of Teamsters Local 783 from 2006 to 2011, embezzled more than $17,000 between October 2009 and August 2011.
Click here to read more at The Courier Journal.Issues: Local Union Reform
SAN FRANCISCO (July 1, 2014) – Negotiations for a new labor contract covering nearly 20,000 dockworkers at 29 West Coast ports will continue to move forward as the existing, six-year coast-wide labor agreement expires today at 5 p.m. PST.
While there will be no contract extension, cargo will keep moving, and normal operations will continue at the ports until an agreement can be reached between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU).
Both sides understand the strategic importance of the ports to the local, regional and US economies, and are mindful of the need to finalize a new coast-wide contract as soon as possible to ensure continuing confidence in the West Coast ports and avoid any disruption to the jobs and commerce they support.
The coast-wide labor contract is between employers who operate port terminals and shipping lines represented by the PMA and dockworkers represented by the ILWU. The parties have negotiated a West Coast collective bargaining agreement since the 1930s.
More than a million people risk losing their federally insured pensions in just a few years despite recent stock market gains and a strengthening economy, a new government study said on Monday.
The people at risk have earned pensions in multiemployer plans, in which many companies band together with a union to provide benefits under collective bargaining. Such pensions were long considered exceptionally safe, but the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation reported in its study that some plans are now in their death throes and cannot recover.
Click here to read more at The New York Times.Issues: Pension and Benefits
“For retirement, the answer is 4-0-1-k,” proclaimed Tyler Mathisen, then editor of Money magazine in 1996. “I feel sure that someday, like a financial Little-Engine-That-Could, it will pull me over the million-dollar mountain all by itself.”
For this sentiment, and others like it, Mathisen was soon rewarded with an on-air position at financial news network CNBC, where he remains to this day. As for the rest of us? We were had.
Click here to read more at The Yucatan Times.Issues: Pension and Benefits
These brothers and sisters deserve all our support and solidarity, as they are fighting unjust demands that would eliminate job security, all seniority rights for layoffs, recall, and job bidding, holiday pay, and bring other concessions.
Read one Teamster's story, and more on the AGY Employees Speaking Out: Putting "Feet To Our Faith" Facebook group.
Less than one month before Bonilla’s passing, another union brother, Yuti Tuvalu, passed on April 21 due to natural causes. Yuti was a member of the unofficial “Gang Uso” which is comprised of longies of Polynesian descent working on the docks. “Uso” is the Samoan word for brother.
While he never held union office, Tuvalu often helped the leadership with security or chauffeuring for union events. Tuvalu was also one of the Gang Uso brothers who most often provided the volunteer “muscle” behind operations such as HelpSamoa.com, which provided containers filled with relief goods for the tsunami-stricken islands in 2009, as well as other events like “Bloody Thursday” that honor our union’s fallen martyrs from the 1934 strike.
“Yuti paved the way for many of us Usos to get involved serving the local,” said Tony Luafalemana, fellow Gang Uso member. “He wouldn’t think twice about calling a “reap” (replacement worker) if one of the officers asked him for any kind of help. Luafalemana added that many of the gains won by lashers on the southern California waterfront are due to the solid reputation Tuvalu helped to establish for workers.
“This is really hard for us because we lost two good union brothers back to back,” said Sam Moega, Executive Board member and former Chief Dispatcher of Local 13. “Berto was my best friend and Yuti was my uso. I consider both of them my brothers and we could always count on them to do anything for our union. Berto was on the frontline and Yuti was the quiet guy in the back. We are really going to miss them.”
Written by Local 13 member Vivian J. Malauulu
The ILWU lost a kind and energetic young leader on May 17 when Alberto Bonilla passed with his family by his side, following a cardiac arrest that left him in a coma for almost a week. Bonilla was 43 years-old.
“Berto,” as he was affectionately known, was very active within the union as both a rank-and-file member and officer. He held numerous leadership positions at Local 13 including Dispatcher, Business Agent, Caucus Delegate, Executive Board member, and Coast Education Committee member. He became known to many beyond Local 13 because he served as Sergeant-At-Arms at many sessions of the Coast Longshore Caucus and was often involved in solidarity efforts to help others. He shared his love for the union with his twin brother Alonzo, and other brothers Nickolas and Jose Luis Rigo.
“Alberto Bonilla was truly a member who embodied everything we aspire to be in this union,” said Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr. “His spirit was bound in brotherhood and his contribution of countless hours towards the benefit of the union and his community is unparalleled. As a member he was exemplary, and as an individual he was a humanitarian. He will be missed by all of us at Local 13.”
Berto was extremely well-liked and respected, qualities that drew hundreds to his funeral. Among those attending were International President Bob McEllrath, International Vice Presidents Ray Familathe and Wesley Furtado, and International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams. ILWU members attended from locals in Canada, the Pacific Northwest, and Hawaii.
“Alberto was a great friend of mine and he was always willing to volunteer and step-up for his union,” said President McEllrath. “We need more young leaders like him, and his loss was felt far and wide.”
“Berto will be missed as a friend and as a union brother,” said Vice President Furtado. “He embodied so much of what the ILWU is about. He fought to keep this union strong and was always there to lend a hand to those in need.”
“I think my husband always had a premonition that something was going to happen to him,” said Marla Piceno Bonilla, Berto’s widow and high-school sweetheart. “He would always tell our son that ‘someday this will be yours’ and he often took Junior with him to union activities.”
“My father named me after him for a reason,” said Alberto Bonilla, Jr., “I will keep his name going and his legacy continuing down on the docks. When I work there someday, I hope to be as good as my dad was because I have big shoes to fill.”
Written by Local 13 member Vivian J. Malauulu
With the addition of Racine Teamsters, the Milwaukee-based Teamsters chapter now has more than 600 new members.
After an “overwhelming” vote by the Racine Teamsters chapter, Local 43, the group will be merging with Milwaukee in an attempt to increase resources and power for members, according to a press release sent by the Milwaukee group.
Click here to read more at The Journal Times.Issues: Local Union Reform
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) is working closely with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the ILWU and other allies on a global education campaign to show why Chevron – not workers – is responsible for bloated budgets and growing delays on a massive natural gas project in northwestern Australia.
Chevron triggered the campaign by blaming members of the Maritime Union of Australia for self-inflicted problems with the company’s “Gorgon” project that intends to develop, produce and ship natural gas in liquefied form (LNG) from offshore locations. The project’s initial price tag of $37 billion has since swollen to $54 billion.
Lawsuit and threats
When the MUA tried to negotiate an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement for maritime workers in the offshore oil and gas sector, Chevron rejected the union’s proposals and dug in their heels. Despite repeated efforts by the union, Chevron stopped talking. Following a legitimate health & safety dispute that briefly delayed the departure of a barge, Chevron declared war on union members by filing a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against the MUA. Chevron then upped the ante with an expensive and deceptive public relations campaign to smear the union by claiming that workers were making unreasonable demands for hundreds of dollars an hour, thus jeopardizing the project and causing cost-overruns.
Exploiting foreign workers
Chevron and other corporate investors in Australia have been testing the waters with a strategy to lower labor costs and destroy unions. The scheme involves importing contract laborers from low-wage countries to work on projects in Australia – paying the immigrants half or less of the Australian union rate – with no worries about unions, safety complaints or other problems.
Dave Noonan of Australia’s Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) says his union has filed complaints about foreign worker abuse since 2010, but little has been done by the Australia’s anti-union government.
“Australian workers are telling us they are applying for jobs on these projects and don’t even get a call back,’’ he said. Mega-profits & dangerous blunders Chevron, like other oil companies, has enjoyed massive windfall profits in recent years with earnings further enhanced by huge taxpayer subsidies.
The Northern California-based corporation reported profits of $21.4 billion in 2013 and $26.2 billion in 2012. Once seen by investors as the hottest growth prospect among major oil companies, Chevron has stumbled recently in the wake of a refinery explosion and fire in Richmond, CA that nearly killed a dozen Chevron workers and sent over 10,000 residents to local hospitals with concerns about respiratory problems.
Support to set the record straight
In early May, 2014, Will Tracey, MUA’s Assistant Secretary for the Western Australia Branch and ITF Australia Campaign Director Shannon O’Keeffe arrived in California to conduct research and establish new contacts. They were assisted by the ILWU and the United Steelworkers Union, which represents refinery workers in many Northern and Southern California sites – including Chevron’s refinery in Richmond, CA where the 2012 explosion nearly killed a dozen of their members.
After meeting with the ILWU International Executive Board, who pledged their solidarity and support, Tracey and O’Keeffe met with other unions, community and environmental organizations that monitor Chevron’s behavior in Richmond and around the world.
The whirlwind tour included interviews on a local radio station, briefings with Richmond City officials who are trying to hold the company more accountable, and discussions with key environmental leaders from Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), Movement Generation, Amazon Watch, and others.
“We learned a lot from our visit, including the fact that Chevron’s disrespectful behavior in Australia is similar to how they seem to operate in Richmond and around the world,” said O’Keefe, who ventured with Will Tracey to Chevron’s headquarters in the pristine suburb of San Ramon, CA to inspect the corporate campus.
Lessons learned from the MUA’s California visit include:
• Chevron has cut corners on safety by avoiding preventive
• Chevron has been charged with serious violations by state a federal safety inspectors;
• Chevron had 5 significant accidents at their Richmond refinery in the past 10 years;
• Chevron admitted committing six criminal charges at their Richmond refinery in 2013;
• Chevron received Cal/OSHA’s highest safety-related fines in history in 2013;
• Chevron has committed 169 air quality violations during the past six years; and,
• Chevron plans to increase cancer causing chemicals and greenhouse gas released in Richmond;
Meeting with Wall St. analysts Armed with new information and contacts from their California visit in early May, the MUA team returned to Australia for some catch-up and preparations. But within two weeks, O’Keefe and the campaign were back in the United States in late May. Their first stop was a New York City meeting with Wall Street analysts who closely follow Chevron’s operation in order to alert investors of potential problems ahead.
Analysts were interested in hearing more about the Gorgon gas project, especially details about the delayed timelines, budget problems and company’s provocative labor posture that includes growing litigation expenses.
Texas shareholder meeting
The next stop on the campaign trail was Chevron’s annual shareholder meeting on May 28, where investors are allowed to ask top management questions about company policies. Previous
Chevron shareholder meetings have taken place in the San Francisco Bay area, near the company’s headquarters. But this year, Chevron tried to hide from critics and the media by moving the shareholder meeting to Midland, Texas. The MUA team and their allies weren’t subdued by Chevron’s last-minute
switch and came prepared with proof of their shareholder status. The campaign delegation included MUA National Secretary and ITF President Paddy Crumlin, Western Australian Branch Assistant Secretary Will Tracey and ITF Australia Campaigns Director Shannon O’Keeffe. The trio listened patiently until the floor was opened for questions.
Then they set the record straight about the real reasons why Chevron’s massive Gorgon project had gone off the rails in Australia. They explained how the company wasted money on expensive public-relations and lobbying consultants who unfairly blamed the Gorgon’s bloated budget and tardy timelines on the MUA.
“Gorgon is an important project for both Chevron and the Australian national interest in the development of our nationally-owned resources,” said MUA National Secretary and ITF President Paddy Crumlin. “We’ve been trying to reach a reasonable agreement with Chevron for years, but each approach has been firmly rebuffed by the company. Chevron should sit down with the unions to develop a sustainable and functional relationship with its workforce.”
Crumlin noted that the Gorgon is one of the largest LNG (liquefied natural gas) projects in the world – and that those energy resources belong to the Australian people. He said Chevron should develop a good relationship with workers on the project and maintain community support. So far, he said, it has been a dismal failure. Crumlin concluded with some colorful Aussie language that may have baffled Chevron’s top brass: “The company needs to get a grip, cop its stuffups on the chin and return to a mature and balanced industrial relations model, more suited to Australian values underpinning economic and commercial success.”
Chevron CEO backtracks
Crumlin’s comments drew a response from Chevron’s top dog, CEO John Watson. Their exchange was covered in a Reuters news report about the shareholder meeting. Unlike Chevron’s strategy in Australia that scapegoated the union, Watson was careful to avoid any suggestion that labor costs had contributed to the Gorgon’s busted budget. Instead, the CEO mentioned bad weather, a rise in the valuation of Australia’s currency, and increasing material prices. He added that Chevron is committed to using union labor in Australia and closed with a clear statement that amounted to a welcome and refreshing flip-flop: “We have no intention of blaming organized labor for cost overruns or delays at Gorgon.”
Business school exposé
In addition to verbal sparring with company officials, the MUA team used the shareholder meeting to release a research port about the Gorgon project conducted by the University of Sydney Business School, which offered a thorough analysis of the project’s problems.
Authored by Professor Bradon Ellem, the report titled, “What is Happening on Chevron’s Gorgon Project?” concluded that delays and cost problems were due to logistical challenges and poor management decisions – not unions and labor issues which played a negligible role.
The report noted that wages are only a small part of the project’s overall cost, with maritime labor estimated to be only 1%. He also found that most of the financial figures used in public debates were misleading, and suggested that Chevron should engage workers in a more cooperative approach to increase efficiency.
‘Wealth of untapped worker experience’
The report suggested Chevron should utilize workers’ “untapped wealth of experience and ideas about how to deliver the project on-time and on-budget,” and encouraged Chevron to rethink the issues and stop blaming workers. The report also chided management for shifting responsibility from themselves to workers, noting that “neither Chevron nor the partners and contractors appear to see themselves as in any way accountable for the failings on their project. In short, both the evidence presented here and the pattern of blame-shifting raise questions about management practice and management accountability.”
MUA WA Branch Secretary Christy Cain welcomed the report as a “wake-up call” and hoped it would influence much of the Australian media that has blamed workers for the Gorgon’s problems.
Western Australian Branch Assistant Secretary Will Tracey praised the report for showing how time and money could be saved through closer engagement with union workers who want the Gorgon project to succeed.
“There’s a lesson in this report – not just for Chevron, but for the media commentators pushing for lower labor standards as some sort of economic panacea. The real key to unlocking Australian workplace productivity is through better engagement and cooperation between management and workers – not screwing down wages and eroding conditions in an adversarial environment.”
The Seattle City Council voted unanimously on June 2 to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 hour. The minimum wage ordinance, which more than doubles the current federal minimum wage, was an important victory for labor activists and puts Seattle in the forefront of national efforts to address income inequality by raising the wage floor for the city’s lowest paid workers.
The “Fight for 15” was a major campaign platform for both Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Council member, Kshama Sawant. Sawant’s election received national attention because she ran her campaign as an openly socialist candidate.
The ordinance was passed with several concessions to businesses that have been criticized by labor activists. The wage increase will be phased in over seven years, with different schedules for small and big businesses (defined as more than 500 employees) and for
business that provide health care coverage or where workers receive tips.
In another concession to business, upon the approval of the state Department of Labor and Industries, employers will be allowed to pay a wage lower than the city minimum—but higher than the state minimum—for the employment of “learners, of apprentices, and of messengers employed primarily in delivery of letters and messages,” and “individuals whose earning capacity is impaired by age or physical or mental deficiency or
The ordinance also contains a provision for a sub-minimum wage-rate for teenagers. Employers will be allowed to pay 85% of the minimum wage to workers under the age of 18. Despite these compromises, Seattle’s minimum wage ordinance is a historic victory for activists. At their May membership meeting, ILWU Local 19 members
voted in favor of a resolution supporting the minimum wage increase.
Even though longshore workers will not be directly affected by the ordinance, Local 19 President Cameron Williams said that it is important to help the City’s lowest paid workers.
“The seventh guiding principle of the ILWU reminds us that unless workers organize, wages, like water, will flow to the lowest level,” Williams said. “Wages in the country have been a downward slide for decades for most workers. It’s time to turn the tide on that trend.”
Local 19 Executive Board member Justin Hirsh said the final ordinance was not perfect and he acknowledged the leadership of Councilmember Sawant. “Kshama and her team fought up to the last minute to make this ordinance the best it could be. This is a
precedent-setting victory and we move forward from here,” Hirsh said.
On June 10th the Port of San Francisco was presented with a gift agreement for the James R. Herman Tribute Sculpture that will be placed at the Pier 27 cruise ship terminal. The terminal is named in honor of former ILWU International President and former San Francisco Port Commissioner, Jimmy Herman. The gift proposal, valued at $250,000, must now be approved by the Board of Supervisors.
The sculpture will be a wall-mounted, interactive audio-visual installation measuring 10-feet high by 15-feet long. The sculpture will resemble the waves of the bay. Housed within it will be a touch screen that will allow visitors to scroll through biographical information about Herman and will also include a directional sound system that will allow visitors to hear highlights from Herman’s speeches.
The installation is expected to be completed by the end of October. Sean Farley, ILWU Local 34 President and Chair of the James R. Herman Memorial Committee, said that the purpose of the sculpture is to commemorate Jimmy Herman’s contribution to the labor movement and to the San Francisco waterfront.
“We wanted to reflect what Jimmy was about—his history, his legacy, his commitment to social justice movements and his contributions as a Port Commissioner—all the facets of who he was in his life. We also had to take into account what Pier 27 is—a world-class cruise terminal facility. We wanted a tribute that is commensurate with that facility and we think we’ve done that.”
“Jimmy was a true working class hero. He tried to make everyone around him better,” said ILWU International Secretary Treasurer Willie Adams. Adams also serves as a Port Commissioner and Vice President of the San Francisco Port Commission. “The cruise ship terminal and this sculpture will be a great tribute to his legacy.”
ILWU members along with other members of the local community including former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi formed the James R. Herman Memorial Committee to raise money for the creation of the sculpture and its maintenance for the next 20 years.
The Committee is still $120,000 short of its goal. If you would like to contribute, please contact Sean Farley or Allen Fung at ILWU Local 34: (415) 362-8852. The committee has applied for non-profit status and is awaiting final approval from the IRS.
While the ILWU’s Longshore Negotiating Committee continues meeting with Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) officials to reach terms on a new Longshore & Clerks Contract that will replace the one expiring at midnight on June 30th, eight members of the ILWU’s Safety Sub-Committee are also trying to negotiate new ways to protect workers from dangerous hazards and deadly injuries.
“We opened our safety negotiations by telling employers that we need a stronger Safety Code to protect everyone on the docks,” said Local 10 member Ed Ferris, Chair of the Safety Sub-Committee. “Our goal is to improve safety on the waterfront.”
The “Safety Code” is a 168-page document formally known as the ILWU-PMA Pacific Coast Marine Safety Code.
“It’s our bible,” says Local 98 member Paul Weiser, a veteran dockworker with over five decades of experience who knows the risks involved. “This job can kill you in a second – before you even know what hit you.”
Weiser serves on the Safety Committee with seven co-workers: Ray Benavente of Local 13 representing Maintenance and Repair; Tracy Burchett of Local 53 representing Small Ports; Committee Secretary Luke Hollingsworth from Local 13 representing the Southern California Region; Committee Vice-Chair Mike Podue of Local 63 representing Marine Clerks; Adam Wetzell of Local 8 representing the Oregon/Columbia River region; and Ryan Whitman of Local 23 representing the Washington/Puget Sound Region.
Local 63’s Mike Podue agrees the work is dangerous. “The last time we crunched the fatality numbers, it showed West Coast longshore workers had higher fatality rates than police officers and fire fighters,” he said. “That leaves a lot of room for improvement.”
Local 8’s Adam Wetzell says he’s seen what can go wrong when companies cut corners on safety and maintenance. “Our container terminal operator in Portland is ICTSI, and they’ve been cited by OSHA for putting workers at risk. Our jobs are already dangerous enough without employers who make it worse.”
The Safety Committee has been meeting steadily since May 12 and aims to make improvements in the Safety Code. “We’ve got work to do that can save lives, but every bit of progress requires a real struggle with the companies,” said Ray Local 13 member Ray Benavente.
“I’ve been through this before and know how hard it is to strengthen the safety rules,” said Tracy Burchett of Local 53. “The employers always have some reason why they resist improving the Safety Code – but it usually comes down to saving time and money.”
Ryan Whitman of Local 23 says the Safety Committee’s work is important, “but it’s only half the battle, because we need every longshore worker to respect and understand the rules – and feel comfortable pushing back when corners get cut.”
Safety Committee members intend to keep working down to the June 30th wire – and beyond if necessary – to reach agreement on a revised and improved Safety Code.
“Almost all injuries are preventable,” said Local 13’s Luke Hollingsworth, “and we shouldn’t have to wait for the next tragedy to make things safer.”