Subscribe to ILWU feed
International Longshore and Warehouse Union
Updated: 1 day 3 hours ago

Solidarity on display at ILWU Canada’s Young Workers Conference

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 16:23

International solidarity: Young workers from around the globe gathered in Vancouver, BC for the third biennial Young Workers Convention. The 3-day conference focused on international solidarity, ILWU history, political action, and
other issues, such as workplace health and safety, port security, and social media.

ILWU Canada held its third biennial Young Workers Convention at the Maritime Labour Center in Vancouver, British Columbia on September 27-29. The theme for this year’s conference was “Internationalism: Solidarity Beyond Borders.”

Internationalism and solidarity were indeed in the air at the conference, beginning with the diverse delegates present, about 40 of whom were from outside Canada. Many of them were from U.S. ILWU locals, and others were from dockers’ unions across the globe in places as far away as Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Their presence set much of the tone for the week, in which young workers discussed ways to build solidarity and learn from one another at home and abroad.

The conference focused on international solidarity, and also covered ILWU history, political action, and other concerns, such as workplace health and safety, port security, and social media.

Conference day 1

The conference opened with ILWU pensioner John Cordecedo discussing the “Bow and Arrow Gangs”—longshore crews composed of primarily indigenous men on the Vancouver waterfront more than 100 years ago. Afterwards, ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton took the stage to introduce the ILWU Canada Executive Board, who were onsite for their meeting. Ashton spoke to pressing issues facing labor today: the fight for a $15 an hour wage, diversity in the workplace, and educating the next generation of union leaders. He said to the young workers present: “What is your job? It is to carry this union forward and never let our flag drop.”

Second Vice President Bill Hoadley, whose work is to implement ILWU Canada’s education programs, gave a warm welcome to the delegates and introduced the outgoing Young Workers Committee. Each person on the committee talked for a few minutes about the value of engaging young workers in the labor movement. Their work on the committee for the past two years included participation in charitable work and food drives and support to other young workers groups such as the Canadian Labour Council’s Young Workers Conference.

Two committee members, Stephanie Dobler and Danielle Burgess discussed international action and their work with ILWU Local 23 in Tacoma.

“Going abroad opened our eyes to issues we have at home.” said Dobler and Burgess in a joint statement. Brian Skiffington, the young workers committee representative from Local 23 proclaimed, “We are all leaders—not necessarily in union office, but on the job and in the community.”

March and rally for $15

From left to right: ILWU Canada 2nd Vice President, Bill Hoadley, Local 502 member Dan Kask, Phil Swanston from the Maritime Union of Australia and ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton.

Before lunch, Amandeep Nijjar, a representative from the Canadian Labour Congress Pacific Region, gave a talk on political action that helped set the stage for young workers looking at ways to get involved. The conference harnessed the young delegates’ energy by organizing a march and rally in support of Vancouver’s Fight for $15 campaign Irene Lanzinger, President of the BC Federation of Labour, gave some background on the struggle, and delegates were invited to make their own signs.

The young workers were joined by pensioners and others from the ILWU who took to the streets following a large truck emblazoned with banners and a loudspeaker to show their support for a higher minimum wage. The march echoed with chants of “Who are we? ILWU!” and “What’s outrageous? Sweatshop wages!”

Food drive

In addition to showing solidarity through the march and rally to support the Vancouver Fight for $15, delegates to the conference were encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to donate to the local food bank. Over the course of the conference, the food drive gained a competitive angle, and many local delegations pooled their money to shop for canned goods and sanitary items for local families. By the end of the week, one corner of the room was piled high with food and supplies to help those in need.

Conference day 2

Day two featured cautionary presentations on social media and transportation security by Victory Square Law attorneys Jeff Sanders and Allison Tremblay, a look at international dockers’ struggles by ITF Dockers’ Section members Nigel Venes and Enrico Tortolano, and lessons on ILWU history from pensioners.

ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams gave an impassioned speech to the conference. “Harry Bridges was a young worker in 1934,” Adams said, underscoring the important role young workers play in making the ILWU strong.

International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams gave an impassioned speech in the morning on the importance of cultivating young leaders within the ILWU. Adams recalled his early life and how he channeled some of his youthful anger into positive work within the union. He also commented on the need to both learn from the past and continue to make history.

 “What you do here has an impact on the world, he said. “Your voice and what you do here resonates all over the world and what you do here will only continue to grow.” Adams noted that young workers were crucial to the creation of the ILWU. “Harry Bridges was a young worker in 1934,” he said. Adams also said that education is the key to building a strong rank-and-file. “We need to continue to make sure that we are creating ways for new members to be active in the ILWU and to ensure their energy and ideas are harnessed to help build and strengthen our union.” Adams was inspired by the energy and enthusiasm the conference generated. Shortly after the conference, Adams received a personal note from one of the participants stating the conference had “lit a fire in him” that he had not expected.

The afternoon featured presentations on ILWU history by pensioners. Tom Dufresne, Barry Campbell, and Herb Howe spoke of the ILWU’s powerful legacy of rank-and-file democracy and urged that “understanding history is essential—let us never forget our roots.”

Campbell, a pensioner from Local 500, described the history and meaning of the phrase, “An injury to one is an injury to all.” He explained the slogan originated with the Industrial Workers of the World and that it shows the importance of unity in the labor movement, both historically and in the present.

Dufresne, retired President of ILWU Canada, discussed ILWU Canada’s early struggles and the “Battle of Ballantyne,” a fierce battle between police and longshore workers on June 18, 1935.

Much of the excitement on Day 2 centered on the nominations process for the next Young Workers Committee. The delegates were broken into groups based on local affiliation, with another group for the international delegates. They were tasked with putting forward names to run for the seven seats on the committee. The nominations process was lively, and several people put their names in for the running.

The third and final day of the conference was packed with information, including a talk on workplace health and safety by Brian Campbell of the BC Federation of Labour, a presentation on union leadership by Caitlin Davidson-King, the BC Federation of Labour Young Workers Representative, and a discussion on the ILWU’s Ten Guiding Principles. One of the first orders of business, however, was hearing the statements from the 12 candidates who put their names in to run for the Young Workers Committee.

Each candidate gave a brief statement, and the theme running through all of the comments was a commitment to growing the union. Tyler Gerard, one of the candidates from Local 502, said: “The union has done a lot for my family, and I would like to see more young people involved.”

Young Workers Committee: From left to right: Isaac Baidoo, Local 500; John Sullivan, Local 500; Viri Gomez, Local 519; Tyler Gerard, Local 502; Ashley Bordignon,
Local 502; Danielle Phelan, Local 500,; and Stefanie Flores, Local 54.

Another, candidate, Ashley Bordignon of Local 502 recalled her work before joining the ILWU when she had no voice to combat workplace problems. “Now that I have a voice, I want to speak loud and help as best I can. We need to feel valued.”

By midday, the delegates cast their votes for the next young workers committee members. The results were announced at the day’s end to much cheering and applause. Isaac Baidoo (500), Ashley Bordignon (502), Stefanie Flores (54), Tyler Gerard (502), Viri Gomez (519), Danielle Phelan (500), and John Sullivan (500), and won seats on the committee.

The afternoon program was led by Brian Skiffington and Zack Pattin, two of the founders of the Local 23 Young Workers Committee. They gave a presentation on the Ten Guiding Principles, lending a historical context to the talk. They tasked delegates to discuss which of the principles they have seen in action on the job and in the union.

This led to a rich dialog on topics such as diversity in the workplace. Conference organizers The conference was organized by the ILWU Canada officers, 2nd Vice President Bill Hoadley and outgoing 2nd Vice President Steve Nasby. The outgoing ILWU Canada Young Workers Committee—Hannah Aiello (500), Julian Demarco (500), Danielle Burgess (502), Stephanie Dobler (502), Andrew Gwartney (502), Richard Larsen (505), Kyle Knapton (400) and Brian Skiffington (23) were also a tremendous support in helping and volunteering their time over the days of the conference. Serving on the Election Committee were: Nae Nae Grant (10), Monique Anglada (13), Elric Sommers (333), Pritpaul Gill (502).

Much of the conference’s success was due to the support of the Locals and efforts of volunteers who contributed time and resources to help out.

More than a dozen other ILWU members—mostly young workers—provided onsite support and many also offered up space in their homes to host out-of-town delegates.

Looking to the future

The conference ended with a dance and dinner, solidifying new friendships and commitments to work together to continue to strengthen the ILWU.

– Robin Walker

Categories: Unions

IBU blows whistle on big oil’s dangerous move in Alaska

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 11:01

The Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU), ILWU’s Marine Division, is blowing the whistle on a dangerous plan to replace experienced union mariners who have successfully protected Alaska’s pristine Prince William Sound for almost three decades – with a cut-rate, nonunion company that has a poor safety record.


The shocking decision was made by oil company executives who own the Alyeska pipeline that carries oil from Alaska’s North Slope oilfield – which is the size of Indiana – across mountains and tundra to Prince William Sound, where it is pumped into giant tankers that carry the crude south to refineries in the lower 48. Low oil prices and falling production have left the Alyeska pipeline operating at only 25% of capacity, and may have been a factor in the oil companies’ decision to take a chance on a low-cost, cut-rate contractor with a dismal safety record.

It was 27 years ago that the Exxon Valdez, filled with North Slope crude, ran aground and dumped millions of gallons into the Prince William Sound, an event that shocked the nation and resulted in massive fines, staggering clean-up costs, and damage to the environment that required a lengthy recovery.

It also demonstrated the need for highly-trained and experienced cleanup crews and safety personnel, including tug operators. Instead of learning from that disaster and the importance of maintaining the highest quality emergency response teams, Exxon and other oil companies have decided to roll the dice by hiring a non-union outfit with a history of mistakes and near-disasters.

Speaking at a press conference in August of last year, IBU President Alan Coté said that the Inlandboatmen’s Union along with the Masters, Mates and Pilot’s union were launching a campaign to warn the public and elected officials about the dangerous decision by oil companies to cut corners on contractors responsible for emergency spill and other services in Prince William Sound.

Both unions represent a total of roughly 230 workers in the region, ranging from cooks to captains on the tugboats that escort tankers in and out of the Sound, to the mariners who staff a fleet of emergency clean-up barges available 24-7 in case of a spill.

The skilled workers are employed by Crowley Marine Services, which has held part of the contract since the emergency response system was put in place after the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster in 1989.

Earlier this spring, Crowley announced that the oil companies had eliminated their firm from renewing the contract, immediately raising concern from workers and unions about the future. Everyone’s worst fears were confirmed when the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company announced that they had decided to dump Crowley and to do business with a company called Edison Chouest Offshore. The Louisiana-based outfit is nonunion, and they’re expected to bring many of their own non-union workers from the Gulf of Mexico up to Alaska in order to avoid hiring local residents and longtime union members with good jobs at Crowley Maritime.

Coté says the IBU warned residents about big oil’s plan to hurt local jobs by launching a public education campaign featuring radio advertisements in Anchorage and Juneau.

“Saving these jobs is critically important to the families and local communities in Alaska,” said Coté, but added that the issue involves more than protecting good jobs. Coté emphasizes that an Edison Chouest tugboat was involved in an infamous fiasco in 2012, when the firm was hired to move Shell’s massive drilling rig, the Kulluk, from frozen artic waters to warmer waters further south.

A series of bad decisions involving Edison Chouest and others resulted in Edison Chouest allowing Shell’s massive rig to crash into Kodiak Island where it was grounded and required a major Coast Guard rescue effort that endangered the lives of the crewmembers and Coast Guard responders.

“I was there in 1989 and saw what the Valdez oil spill did to Prince William Sound,” said Coté. “It was devastating and we never want to see anything like that happen again. No one would hire any person or company for a major project without a thorough criminal and performance background check. If one would have been done in this case, serious questions would have been raised about Edison Chouest’s dumping oil in the Antarctic. We have been demanding that hearings be held to determine the truth.”

Carl Jones is an IBU member who worked as an engineer on Crowley tugboats for 15 years. He said there’s no good reason to replace a system that’s working well with newcomers who are unfamiliar with the weather, tides, and geography of a notoriously difficult place to operate.

“Everyone up there has years of training and experience,” he said. “To think that a company from outside could come in and replace 25 years of experience in one day, or ten days or even a hundred days — happen.”

Edison Chouest refused to answer questions from reporters who called the company to account for its poor safety record, training and staffing plans. A spokesperson for the oil companies that own Alyeska, did issue a predictable statement claiming that their Louisiana contractor would meet safety and environmental standards – but her comment also included an admission that Edison Chouest may need more training before being ready for prime time in Prince William Sound.

“Any company that works with us has to meet the expectations of the response plan in Prince William Sound, which are very rigorous, and they have to be demonstrated repeatedly through drills and exercises,” said the spokesperson.

“So there are many opportunities for us to identify if there are gaps and then help bridge those gaps. But we expect them to be an outstanding contractor.”

The spokesperson also admitted that their contract with Edison Chouest includes no requirement for local Alaskans to be hired. She noted Alyeska has a separate policy requiring contractors to hire 20 percent Native Alaskans, but even meeting that goal provides no assurance that existing Native and other workers will be able to keep their jobs.

If Edison Chouest remains the choice of Alyeska to replace Crowley, the new company would take over operations in July of 2018, while hundreds of workers face the prospect of losing their jobs as Crowley is replaced.

“The oil companies are making a terrible decision that’s bad for Alaskan workers and the environment, said Coté. “Picking a cut-rate, nonunion outfit to bolster their bottom line is a penny-wise and pound-foolish proposition. The IBU is committed to helping these workers fight for their jobs, and that fight will continue.”


Categories: Unions

ILWU wins major organizing victory on the docks in Southern California

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 10:16

Welcome to the ILWU family: Local 63 President Paul Trani swore in newly organized superintendents from Pasha, Eagle Marine Services (Operations Control), California United Terminals and West Coast Terminal & Stevedore into Local 63 at a stopwork meeting on October 5th.

On October 5th, newly organized ILWU members were sworn into Local 63 as part of an on-going campaign to organize the superintendents in the ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach. Superintendents from Pasha, Eagle Marine Services (Operations Center), California United Terminals and West Coast Terminal & Stevedore were sworn in by Local 63 President Paul Trani. These members join Local 63 as part of the new Superintendents’ Unit. This was a historic victory for the ILWU.

These are the first marine terminal superintendents to be represented by any union on the West Coast. The ceremony took place at the local’s monthly “stopwork” meeting after several months of organizing and actions to help the superintendents unionize. Superintendents had become concerned as management increasingly treated them with little respect and required them to work long hours without any additional pay.

“The solution here was to help these workers organize and, at the same time, grow our union,” said International Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe, who assisted with the organizing and negotiation effort. Familathe oversees the ILWU organizing program on the Mainland.

NLRB elections

In order to unionize, the superintendents had to go through the traditional National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) process of signing cards and filing a petition with the Labor Board for a union election. This is a risky and intimidating process for any worker. It takes a lot of courage and grit to stand up to an employer and assert your right to have a union.

“These superintendents risked their livelihoods when they signed cards with the ILWU,” said Familathe. “These workers were at-will employees and had no dispatch hall to fall back on if they were fired. They took this risk because they wanted to make a better life for themselves and their families, and they’ve seen firsthand what having a strong union behind you can mean.”

The workers knew that the employers would vigorously oppose the organizing effort, which put them at greater risk. Familathe said that the employers threw everything they had at the superintendents to try to stop them from organizing. “They didn’t even want to let the superintendents vote on whether to become part of the ILWU,” Familathe said.

Employer opposition

The employers hired big management law firms to challenge the superintendents’ petitions. To even get the Board order allowing them to vote, the superintendents went through days of grueling hearings at the NLRB in downtown Los Angeles. One of the hearings lasted 8 days.

At the hearings, many of the superintendents had to listen to their managers testify and then had to stand up and testify against their managers, with their managers sitting in the room.

The company lawyers put the superintendents through hours of grilling on the witness stand in some cases. Some of the company lawyers even tried to make it seem like the superintendents were lying under oath, but the superintendents did not bend. In every case so far, the NLRB Regional office has ruled in favor of ILWU Local 63 and ordered that the superintendents should be able to vote on whether or not they want to join the union. In every vote so far, workers have voted in favor of union representation.

Contract negotiations

The superintendents at Eagle Marine and Pasha, with support from the International and Local 63, have bargained their first contracts. The West Coast Terminal & Stevedore superintendents are close behind. These are stand-alone agreements between the units and the individual companies. Although these superintendents are members of Local 63, they do not work under the marine clerks’ contract and they are not part of the ILWU-PMA registration or dispatch system.

Team effort

This organizing was the result of a team effort by the ILWU International Organizing Department, and the officers, staff and rank-and-file members of Local 63, said Familathe. Local 63 President Paul Trani, Local 63 Vice President Joe Gasperov, Local 63 Secretary Maureen Gutierrez, Local 63 Business Agent Cathy Familathe, Local 63 Business Agent Anthony Spanjol and rank-and-file members from Local 63 assisted in the campaign.

Categories: Unions

Commonwealth Club building preserves ILWU history

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 12:00

Honoring longshore history: Bay Area Pensioner President Lawrence Thibeaux (left) and ILWU International Secretary Treasurer Willie Adams in front of the plaque commemorating the 1934 Waterfront Strike outside of the Commonwealth Club’s new headquarters.

and turbulent origins.

1934 longshore strike headquarters

The story begins almost ten years ago when the Commonwealth Club – America’s oldest public affairs forum – began searching for a site to build their new headquarters in San Francisco. They discovered a long-abandoned property with an old collapsed office building facing the Embarcadero waterfront in front and Steuart Street in back. They soon realized this run-down property served as the office for longshore workers in Local 38-79 of the International Longshoremen’s Association between 1933-1935 when they struggled to build a union that eventually became today’s ILWU. 

Preserving worker history

“Other developers might have just demolished the old building and ignored the history, but the Commonwealth Club took it seriously and worked with us,” said ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams. He explained that ILWU officers were contacted early by the Commonwealth Club and were invited to help preserve the building’s unique history. The International officers assembled a committee to assist with historical documentation for the site, consisting of ILWU staffer Robin Walker, who serves as the ILWU’s Librarian, Archivist and Education Director; ILWU historian Harvey Schwartz; and Bay Area pensioner John Fisher. The effort resulted in a productive collaboration that lasted years as the project unfolded.

Hosting public forums

The cooperation yielded results beginning in 2014 when the Commonwealth Club hosted a public forum for ILWU leaders and allies to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the 1934 Maritime Strike. Local 10 President Melvin Mackay served as Program Chair and fellow Local 10 member/Coast Benefits Specialist John Castanho offered remarks, along with comments from historians Robert Cherny and Harvey Schwartz, Labor Council Director Tim Paulson and SF Chronicle reporter Carl Nolte. A recording of the sold-out event remains accessible on the Club’s website.

 Building’s exterior preserved

Another significant gesture made by the Club to honor the building’s history came when a decision was reached – at some expense – for architect Marsha Maytum to preserve and restore the building’s original crumbling exterior façade on Steuart Street.

Plaque to tell the story

In addition, the Commonwealth Club worked with the ILWU to design a plaque installed on the building’s Stueart Street entrance to honor the events in 1934 including the Waterfront Strike and San Francisco General Strike that gave rise to today’s ILWU.

Educational video inside

Inside the buildings entrance and reception area, the Club is developing an educational video that will further showcase the building’s history involving worker struggles.

ILWU in opening ceremony

And finally, on September 12, 2017, the grand opening ceremony for the Club’s new headquarters included remarks by ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer and Port Commission President Willie Adams – along with acknowledgement of the ILWU’s historic role made by Commonwealth CEO Gloria Duffy, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Jane Kim. Also recognized and participating was ILWU Bay Area Pensioner President Lawrence Thibeaux. Adams and Thibeaux unveiled the newly installed plaque to more than 100 guests and reporters who attended the event.  “This building is where Harry Bridges and other leaders planned the 1934 waterfront strike that changed history in San Francisco and other west coast ports – and sent out shock waves that inspired workers around the world,” said Adams. He also noted that the restored building is just a few doors down from the corner of Steuart and Mission where two strikers – Howard Sperry and Nick Bordoise – were killed by police on July 5, marking a date that became known as Bloody Thursday. Bodies of the slain martyrs were taken inside the old longshore offices where they laid in repose for several days, allowing thousands of mourners to visit and honor their sacrifice.

Lectures about ILWU & 1934

After guests passed by the newly installed plaque to enter the light-filled, energy-efficient building, they were treated to food, drink and brief lectures scheduled throughout the afternoon from local historian Rick Evans, Architect Marsha Maytum and Club CEO Gloria Duffy – all of whom acknowledged the ILWU’s role in the new headquarters building.

 A growing institution

The Commonwealth Club was founded more than a century ago and now has 20,000 members who attend hundreds of speeches and debates each year. Public radio broadcasts of keynote speakers reach an even larger mass audience.  “Everyone who visits the Club’s new headquarters will also learn something about the ILWU’s past and our work that continues to this day,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath.

Categories: Unions

IBU breaks ground on new apprenticeship training center in San Pedro

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 10:41

The new training center is names after labor attorney Victor Kaplan in honor of longtime friendship and assistance to the IBU.

The Inlandboatmen’s Union, the marine division of the ILWU, held a groundbreaking ceremony for the training hall of their newly established apprenticeship program. The IBU apprenticeship is a two-year program that will provide mariners with the skills and knowledge to safely enter into a career in the marine industry. The training center will also provide classes for experienced mariners to renew their credentials in San Pedro. This will save them the added expense of having to travel to San Diego or to the Pacific Northwest. The program will consist of 3,000 hours of on the-job training and 420 hours of supplemental instruction and training.

It started on a napkin

Apprenticeship Director
Kenyata Whitworth

“It started on a paper napkin at a lunch meeting,” said IBU Southern California Regional Director John Skow. Kenyata Whitworth, who will serve as the programs first Apprenticeship Director first suggested the idea of an apprenticeship program. “At first I was hesitant because I thought apprenticeship programs were something for the Building Trades, but I eventually came around to the idea.”  Whitworth said he was inspired to start a local maritime apprenticeship program after talking with a friend who had recently joined the industry. “It’s very difficult to gain experience in the industry,” Whitworth said. “Employers are hesitant to hire people without sea time and sending people into the industry without training is not always the best thing for them.” Whitworth said his friend, who had three small children at the time, enrolled in the Tongue Point Seamanship Academy in Oregon in order to get the training and experience he needed. The Tongue Point Academy is a Job Corp program and requires that students be at the Academy for 20 months. “He had to sacrifice time away from his family to get the training he needed. I don’t want others to be forced to make that same choice.”  “This program will be great for the IBU,” said IBU Secretary-Treasurer Terri Mast. “There’s a great need because this is an industry that is growing.” Mast said that the Southern California program can serve as a model. “Once this program gets going, we can take it to other regions and hopefully more employers will see the value in supporting this type of training program.”

Important partnerships 

John Skow, SoCal Regional Director of the IBU

A key partner for the IBU in the process was the Division of Adult and Career Education (DACE) at the Los Angeles Unified School District. Skow said their assistance was instrumental. DACE helped the IBU apply for a grant from the State of California that provided the start-up funds for the program and DACE also helped to secure classroom space at Harbor Occupational Center and to develop the program’s curriculum.  Pacific Tugboat Services (PTS), an IBU signatory, has also been at crucial partner in setting up the program. Steve Frailey from PTS spoke at the ceremony. He said he was grateful to be a part of establishing the apprenticeship program, which he said would help bring qualified mariners into the industry.

Honoring Victor Kaplan

The training hall was named in honor of Victor Kaplan, a labor attorney and long-time friend of the IBU. Kaplan, who recently turned 103, is the oldest practicing member of the California State Bar. He began his law career in 1935. At one point, he even tried, unsuccessfully, to get a job with the ILWU. Kaplan said that he was inspired by the New Deal to “take up the cause of the working man.” His commitment to helping workers was solidified by his experience working on the frontlines of the Potash strikes in Trona, CA in 1941 where he provided free legal-aid for union members while also picketing in solidarity with the workers.  Throughout his eight-decade career, Kaplan has fought for agricultural workers, miners, atomic and chemical workers and the IBU. He can often still be found at the IBU hall in San Pedro on Fridays offering legal assistance.  “Victor has been coming here every Friday for the past 9 years or so, offering his knowledge without a price tag,” Skow said. “This is why we wanted to dedicate the training hall to him, because we want to take that same model and apply that here. We want to share our knowledge with our apprentices.”

Finishing touches

The program will train 50 new apprentices for the industry over two years once the program is up and running. The buildout on the Victor Kaplan training hall is underway. The facility will include Desktop Ship Simulators, computer-bases simulations to train students in marine radar. A date has not been set for the official start of classes but Skow said he is hopeful that instruction can begin by the end of the year.


Categories: Unions

Pacific Coast Pensioners Celebrate 50th Anniversary

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 16:05

The 50th Annual Convention of the ILWU’s Pacific Coast Pensioners Association (PCPA) was held September 18-20 in Long Beach.

The 50th Annual Convention of the ILWU’s Pacific Coast Pensioners Association (PCPA) was held September 18-20 in Long Beach, California where delegates marked their important organizational milestone. The convention was hosted by the Southern California Pensioners.

Golden Anniversary

“This year’s event is extra-special because it marks our ‘Golden Anniversary’ in honor of the 1967 founding of our group with help from ILWU President Harry Bridges, who encouraged us to come together, grow and become a vital part of the ILWU, which we continue to do,” said PCPA President Greg Mitre.

Record Attendance

The Southern California Pensioners Group rolled out the red carpet for all the delegates, officials and special guests who attended the event. Record-breaking attendance of over 250 people were packed into 4 days of events that began with a spirited PCPA Executive Board meeting on Sunday where issues were discussed and debated in front of a large group of observers.

Bags full of history

Sunday was also check-in day when delegates and guests first met the large team of volunteers composed of Convention Committee members who helped everyone register and receive their official 50th Anniversary Convention bag filled full of goodies. Included were boxes of See’s candy (union-made), a book of remarkable poems written by Jerry Brady, the Poet Laureate of the ILWU Pensioners. Also included was a beautiful hardcover book: “The Port of Los Angeles, An Illustrated History from 1850 to 1945,” which was provided courtesy of the Port of Los Angeles.

Delegates and members meet

A reception was sponsored by Local 13 members on Sunday evening to welcome delegates, allow them to mingle with old friends and meet with active members and officers, including Local President Mark Mendoza and Vice President Gary Hererra. The event was held on the beautiful grounds of the Maya Hotel in Long Beach, which served as convention headquarters for the next four days. Drinks were served along with countless appetizers and a popular taco bar. Members of the ILWU Auxiliary hosted a Hospitality Room that became “the place to be and be seen” during the welcome reception and it remained open during the following four days, providing delegates and guests with complimentary beverages, fresh fruit, snacks and a place to meet, relax, and catch-up with old friends.

Opening with three anthems

Monday marked the official opening of the Convention, beginning with the National Anthems of the U.S., Canada and Panama. Words for each anthem were displayed on large screens which encouraged everyone to join in and sing words that were previously unknown to many in the audience.

Honoring the departed

A somber moment of silence followed the anthems, in honor of Pensioners who had passed-on since the last convention. Included was a special tribute to George Cobbs Jr., well-known and much-loved pensioner from the S.F. Bay area who helped countless ILWU members win the struggles against drug and alcohol addiction during his lifetime. A complete list of the dozens more pensioners who were honored by delegates after passing during the previous year are contained in the Convention’s official minutes and record.

 Officials in attendance

An introduction of ILWU officials and special guests who attended the convention was the next order of business. ILWU International President Bob McEllrath, Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams, Vice President Ray Familathe were all introduced, along with Coast Committeemen Cam Williams and Frank Ponce De Leon. Also attending were a dozen local union presidents from up and down the coast, each of whom was introduced, welcomed and invited to deliver brief remarks during the proceedings.

Overview of the Port

The Convention was held along the waterfront of America’s largest Port complex that encompasses both the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach, which are administered under separate political jurisdictions. Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka delivered the convention’s first major address with opening remarks and a power point presentation that emphasized growing consolidation within the global shipping industry that now has fewer but more powerful multinational players.

Time to learn and enjoy

Monday afternoon was dedicated to some fun and an educational tour. A fleet of modern buses took delegates on an informative Labor History tour with guides on each bus who noted points of interest, emphasizing dates of important longshore and other labor struggles. The final stop included a tour of Local 13’s new dispatch hall that is expected to open soon.

Catalina King tour

The highlight on Monday was a memorable cruise, dinner, and dance aboard the historic Catalina King vessel that accommodated 300 guests who were wined and dined while enjoying a fascinating narrated tour of both the ports of Los Angeles & Long Beach. Providing facts and details about the Port of Long Beach was PCPA’s own President, Greg Mitre, who at one time used to work as a Captain of the Catalina King. Details about the Port of Los Angeles were provided by Port Director Gene Seroka, who was onboard to give an impressive account of the Port’s operations. Dinner served onboard during the tour featured a fabulous BBQ selection of ribs, chicken and brisket, provided by retired ILWU crane operator Marvin Hardley & his amazing family. Live music and dancing moved many onto the floor thanks to the popular local band, “Time Machine,” that performed hits until the Catalina King returned to her berth in Long Beach.

International guests

Panama Solidarity: Panama Canal Pilots President Londor Rankin gave a
detailed update on the ILWU’s Panama Canal Division.

Tuesday provided delegates a chance to hear from distinguished guests who travelled thousands of miles to attend, beginning with Londor Rankin, President of the Panama Canal Pilots Union. Rankin was responsible for initiating contact many years ago with Vice President Familathe that eventually led to the formation of the ILWU’s Panama Canal Division. Captain Rankin, gave a detailed report regarding the newly-expanded canal that recently opened – along with some important labor and safety struggles between workers and their employers in the Panama Canal Authority (ACP). Rankin delivered good news about growth in the Panama Canal Division, thanks to a new group of stevedores who are ready to affiliate. Another very interesting report was presented by Raul Feuillet, who is also a Panama Canal pilot and President of the Panama Canal Pilots Credit Union. He explained how important the credit union has become to provide retirement savings to retirees there who would otherwise receive only modest Social Security payments. Following the Panama reports, brothers and  sisters from Canada and Alaska were welcomed and presented reports. Canadian pensioners continue to have a strong program and good participation. The Alaska report was focused on the dramatic growth and organizing that has taken place during the past year, making them now the fastest growing region of ILWU pensioners.

Overview from “down under”

Following lunch, President Barney Sanders of the Australian pensioners delivered a rousing speech that had many listening closely to better appreciate his sharp wit, charming accent and unusual Aussie expressions. As President of the Maritime Union of Australia Veterans (the Australian term for “Pensioners”), Sanders also travelled thousands of miles from his home in Brisbane to deliver a blistering account of labor struggles in Australian ports involving automation, mass lay-offs and firings, along with employer demands to “casualize” the maritime workforce. He noted that workers down under are facing the same ordeals as workers elsewhere, because the same global employers are increasingly controlling operations in ports around the world. He pointed to the current effort by big employers in Australia to eliminate local workers from staffing coastal vessels, similar to efforts underway in the U.S. to eliminate the Jones Act, which requires U.S. vessels serving domestic ports to hire U.S. crews.

Awards Tuesday

Stranahan Award: Southern California
Pensioner Herman Moreno was the recipient of this year’s Jesse and Lois Stranahan Award, which is given to an individual who represents the values of the ILWU and goes beyond the call of duty.

Tuesday night featured a big awards banquet. After a delicious dinner, several awards were presented, beginning with Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who received the “friendly politician” award. Hahn has been a great friend of the ILWU for many decades, beginning with her service as a Los Angeles City Council member, then U.S. Congresswoman, and now County Supervisor. George Cobbs Jr., was honored posthumously with a special award for his many decades of service to the ILWU, particularly his leadership in the Drug & Alcohol Recovery Program. Next up was the Jesse and Lois Stranahan Award, which is given to an individual who represents the values of the ILWU and goes beyond the call of duty. Southern California Pensioner Herman Moreno received this year’s award from PCPA President Greg Mitre who fought back tears as he explained how Herman has been a lifelong mentor to him and many others.

Special honors

Honoring the President: ILWU International President Robert McEllrath (right) was given a special award from the convention by PCPA President Greg Mitre (center). The award recognized McEllrath for his dedication and service to the ILWU. Southern California Pensioner and PCPA Poet Laureate, Jerry Brady, (left) composed an epic poem for McEllrath.

The last award of the evening was presented to International President Bob McEllrath, who was honored for his years of dedication and service to the ILWU. McEllrath was first presented with an epic poem composed by the ILWU Pensioner Poet Laureate, Jerry Brady, then thanked repeatedly for serving in so many different capacities over the years, including Coast Committeeman, International Vice President, and his current post as International President. At the previous ILWU Convention, McEllrath announced he would not seek another term and that he was looking forward to becoming a pensioner soon – reminding the Award Banquet audience that he will soon be joining their ranks. After receiving more thanks and praise from the pensioners for his  lifetimes of service and support,  McEllrath was presented with a special gift that he is expected to utilize during his upcoming retirement.

During his earlier speech, McEllrath said: “This is the last time I’ll be speaking to you as your International President – and the next time I’m here, it will be as Big Bob the pensioner.” McEllrath said the Pensioners remain a critical part of the union, and noted, “We’re all still in the struggle and when a union brother needs help, we’ll be there.” Conclusion, resolutions & Portland Wednesday marked the culmination of the Convention, including the election of PCPA officers. Elected to serve without objection by acclimation were President Greg Mitre, Vice President Lawrence Thibeaux, Recording Secretary Kenzie Mullen and Treasurer Christine Gordon.  Several resolutions were considered with all passing unanimously on Tuesday:

  • Support for new “Medicare for All” legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, California Senator Kamala Harris, and others;
  • Support for Alaska Pensioners including a visit by Vice President Lawrence Thibeaux to attend their upcoming convention on October 4;
  • A letter urging the Coast Committee to continue doing everything possible to implement improve-ments for pension benefits to surviving spouses;
  • Support for a documentary film effort to interview 50 waterfront families living and working in LA and Long Beach;
  • Opposition to President Trump’s racist remarks and hate groups he has encouraged;
  • Directing the PCPA to implement a 2009 resolution to create an Education Committee.

Prints of a group photo were distributed on Wednesday morning to each delegate, thanks to efforts on the previous day by Local 13 member Robin Doyno. President Mitre thanked all who attended the event and brought the entire committee of volunteers up on stage, and they received a rousing round of applause. After announcing the next ILWU-PCPA Convention will be held in Portland, Oregon in September of 2018, delegates adjourned and headed home.

Categories: Unions

Bay Area ILWU locals help North Bay fire victims

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 10:02

In order to provide support and relief to the many fire victims in the North Bay, all ILWU Bay Area locals are collecting donations at the ILWU Dispatch hall at 400 North Point St in San Francisco. SSA Matson has generously donated a 40 ft. container for use in this relief project. It will be delivered the week of Oct 16th.

Please give what you can to help provide support and comfort to those who have lost so much. Essential supplies include clothes, blankets, new pillows, new underwear, packaged prepared foods, diapers, baby food and water.

Categories: Unions

Unions cheer as Uber is kicked-out of London

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 09:38

Uber – the anti-union, “disruptive” high-tech darling of venture capitalists – got a bloody nose in London late September from public regulators who refused to issue the company a license and declared them “not fit and proper.”  This wasn’t the first time Uber has clashed with governments in cities including Austin, Texas, Paris and Rio de Janeiro where there have been bitter conflicts. But London is Western Europe’s largest city, the region’s techhub and the biggest body so far to “dis” the “disruptive” technology giant.

Unions speak out

London’s rejection followed militant protests by taxi drivers in Paris, Berlin and Madrid. The decision was celebrated by local and international labor unions because Uber has compiled such a long record of worker and public criticism in such a short period of time, including allegations that workers were cheated, passengers deceived and labor standards lowered for taxi drivers.

Plenty of problems

Uber has been accused and sued for lying and concealing details about accident insurance and driver background checks. Drivers say the company cheated them out of fair pay, tips, benefits and employee status. Pedestrians and bicycle riders have complained that city streets are much more dangerous. San Francisco now has 45,000 new “ride-sharing” drivers on city streets, and they account for a majority of some traffic violations, according to SF police testimony in late September. “Walking on workers for profit” Paddy Crumlin, head of the Maritime Union of Australia’s (MUA) and President of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), a global body that includes the ILWU, praised London’s decision for getting tougher with Uber.  “This is another nail in the coffin for a business model that walks all over the rights of workers and the safety of passengers in the name of profits. We are not opposed to new technology in transport, but we are opposed to a return to Victorian working conditions. Workers today need good jobs and strong regulation to keep corporate greed in check,” said Crumlin.

Business model based on subsidy

Crumlin’s critical stance is shared by business analysts who have questioned Uber’s behavior in the pages of Fortune, Forbes, the Washington Post and other outlets. They wonder about the company’s dependence on massive venture capital funding – $15 billion since 2010 – that sustains Uber’s massive losses in order to achieve their goal of dominating the marketplace for ridesharing today, and self-driving cars in the future. Critics say Uber has operated at a loss for eight years since it started, and may continue losing money for years to come. The company reported a loss of $708 million in the first quarter of 2016 and lost $991 the quarter before. But the losses are all part of a business model that subsidizes driver pay, lures riders with unsustainably low rates, and manipulates laws here and abroad to avoid regulations and taxes. Uber has ignored local ordinances in Virginia, Texas and other states where local governments tried to regulate Uber and other ride-sharing companies. Taxpayers foot the bill Uber’s funding doesn’t just come from private venture capital. Taxpayers in San Francisco and other locations are providing Uber and other hi-tech giants with big tax breaks. Two years ago in 2015, the city Controller estimated that Uber and other hi-tech companies had received $34 million in tax breaks that year, and the amount is probably higher today. Those tax breaks are going to companies that claim to be worth billions; Uber’s valuation alone is estimated at $68 billion, and some believe it will soon be $100 billion. Others say Uber is worth far less, but as a private company without public shares and public documents, an accurate valuation is hard to determine.

 Tax avoidance

To qualify for special tax breaks, Uber established their headquarters building on San Francisco’s Market Street, a few blocks from the ILWU International offices. Now the company has added a new headquarters building in the Netherlands, believed to be part of a massive tax-avoidance scheme, similar to ones used by Apple, General Electric and other corporations to avoid paying billions in U.S. taxes. Ironically, the Netherland is now in the process of banning Uber from operating their car-sharing platform there, one of a half-dozen nations that are taking similar action.

Prices too good to be true

A recent ten-mile trip in the Bay Area may illustrate why the economics of ride-sharing may be “too-good-to-be-true.” The rider paid Uber $12.00 for a trek from Marin County across the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco. The company took 20% of the total, leaving the driver with about $9.60. But that was before the driver had to pay a $6.00 bridge toll, leaving just $3.60 to cover his wage plus the cost of gas, oil, maintenance and depreciation on an expensive automobile. Other drivers in different circumstances may do better, but this example illustrates why the system’s “success” deserves closer scrutiny. In 2015, one transportation analyst used Uber’s own financial documents to conclude that the company was charging only 41% of what their ride service actually costs to operate.

Rates will eventually rise

Analysts and Uber officials admit the company will eventually be raising rates, but probably not until they eliminate the competition and achieve their goal of market domination. One estimate last year put Uber’s market share at 78%, which seems impressive, but the company appears determined to capture an even larger share by quashing Lyft and other competitors.

 Predatory behavior?

Similar business practices were once considered vile, predatory and sometimes illegal. During the turn of the 19th Century, workers and farmers organized against monopolies or “trusts” formed by oil, steel, railroad and grain companies that killed competitors and fixed prices. The result was social unrest, formation of worker political parties and anti-trust legislation. Anger against big banks and Wall Street rose again during the Great Depression in the 1930’s, sparking a new round of political action, mass organizing of workers by the ILWU and other unions, and more laws to control corporations and investors. Enforcement of these laws weakened after the crisis passed and corporate power grew in Washington. In recent decades, politicians have grown increasingly fond of Wall Street investors and high-tech companies in Silicon Valley. Trump’s new push to lower taxes for these and other corporations, along with super-rich individuals, is a new indicator of how far America has gone down that road.

Amazon’s similar strategy

Uber isn’t the only start-up that’s using massive funding from venture capitalists to incur losses while stomping out the competition. Amazon seeks to dominate retail and delivery markets. But unlike Uber, Amazon directly employs about 180,000 workers in the U.S. with many of them receiving benefits. Another 100,000 will be hired during the coming year, but even when that total hits 280,000 it will still be a small fraction of Walmart’s 1.5 million employees. Like Uber, Amazon also uses vast numbers of “independent contractors” to deliver products. In this way, both Uber and Amazon are cheating workers out of Social Security, disability, benefits or other payroll taxes for their allegedly “independent” workers. Both companies also share an appetite for soliciting hefty taxpayer subsidies as incentives to locate new facilities. Amazon is now soliciting bids to locate a new headquarters building somewhere in the U.S. that will employ thousands of workers; the highest bidder is expected to pay billions in public subsidies to win the contest.

Traditional organizing is tougher

Uber’s “independent contractor” model means organizing traditional unions is much more challenging. Ironically, taxi-drivers who face the same legal obstacles as independent contractors, were among the first to win improvements through organizing a “union” like New York City’s Taxi Workers Alliance. Uber workers have used a similar approach to successfully organize legal and political actions that have yielded some concessions and financial settlements. With anti-union courts now weakening labor laws covering traditional, organizing these “advocacy and action” groups may become more common and necessary. Unions that support and show solidarity to these non-traditional efforts may find themselves in good company with new friends, allies and some public support.

Privatization wedge

Another reason for all workers – not just taxi drivers – to be concerned about Uber, Lyft and similar examples of non-union “disruptive” hi-tech companies, is that they are now actively soliciting business from public transit systems, many operated by union members. The city of Altamonte Springs, Florida near Orlando recently decided to subsidize the cost of Uber rides for residents instead of offering public transit. Lyft says they’re already negotiating similar deals with unnamed “large city transit systems.” A city official at Altamonte Springs says his city allocated $500,000 in Uber ride subsidies for the coming year, that was motivated in part from the failure by local governments to provide decent public transit options for residents in the region. Before settling on Uber, the city considered operating a public van or small bus to shuttle residents, but the estimate of $1.5 million for that service made the $500,000 subsidy to Uber seem like a bargain. Gouged by the gig economy

“All union members, whether they’re in the public or private sector, need to be aware of these non-union ‘gig-economy’ companies who make claims that are “too-good-to-be-true,’” said the ILWU’s Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe. “At the same time, we have to help the workers at these new companies learn about their rights and support their efforts to organize for improvements. Our problem isn’t with the drivers; it’s with the owners and investors who are trying to profit on the backs of others.”


Categories: Unions

Pensioners & young workers show solidarity for Idaho silver miners

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:44

Standing up for striking silver miners: ILWU members from Northwest locals have been supporting a difficult strike by Idaho silver miners that began last March

Idaho’s “Silver Valley” may sound romantic, but hundreds of miners who work deep inside the region’s deep, hot and dangerous hard-rock silver mines were forced out on strike last March and now find themselves on the frontline of America’s working class struggle.

 ILWU support

 ILWU Pensioners and young workers from Northwest locals are stepping up to help roughly 250 miners and their families employed by Hecla to work in the Lucky Friday mine in Mullan, Idaho where silver, lead and zinc are extracted from narrow shafts up to 8500 feet underground.

 Early contributions

 In early May, the Seattle Pensioners made a $500 contribution to help the members of United Steelworkers Local 5114. Additional support came the following month when Local 19 donated $5000 on June 8, and Local 21 donated the same amount on June 14.

Personal delivery

 “I read about what was happening to these miners, and thought my fellow pensioners would want to do something,” said Mark Downs who personally delivered an early check and solidarity letter from the ILWU Seattle Pensioner’s Club, after making the five-hour drive across Washington State with two other activists.

May Day decision

 Downs noted that the Seattle Pensioners had held their monthly meeting on May Day, “which was a pretty good day to share some solidarity,” he said, adding that the group’s vote to contribute was unanimous. Downs stayed overnight in Idaho near the small town of Mullan where the Lucky Friday miners are taking their stand against Hecla, and he attended a union picnic the next day with the striking miners.

 Young Workers & pensioners 

Downs returned from his trip excited to share his experiences. Word of the strike reached Tacoma where Local 23’s Young Worker Committee (YWC) has been meeting with Pensioners on Thursdays for the past two years. YWC activist Brian Skiffington did some research about the strike and took his own trip to Mullan where he met with the miners and reported back to a joint meeting of the Tacoma Pensioners and the YWC. Both groups decided to launch a new round of solidarity over the summer.

Larger caravan

Hard rock miners are tough: Before the strike, workers at Hecla’s Lucky Friday mine went to work each day to recover silver, lead and zinc that made their employer profitable. The members of United Steelworkers Local 5114 say the strike has put significant economic pressure on the company, contributing to a $26 million quarterly loss.

A larger solidarity caravan with 14 participants was organized to depart on August 2, in time to mark 130 days on the picket line. Caravaners made their way to the Wolf Lodge campground where they received a warm welcome from miners and family members, including camp “mom” Megan Chavez and cook Cory Chavez, who prepared breakfast early the next morning.

After finishing the hearty meals, the solidarity visitors were soon mixing it up with miners and other supporters in a spirited protest held in front of Hecla’s corporate headquarters in Coeur d’Alene that attracted 200 participants – a new turnout record.Songs were sung, chants and slogans were shouted and solidarity signs drew many honks from supporters driving past the protest.

Strikers stand firm

The action marked more than 4 months on strike without a single miner crossing the picket line, and no ore being mined at the Lucky Friday. While over half the miners have been forced to search elsewhere for work to support their families, over 100 remain nearby to handle picket duty and other tasks.

Grateful for support

Miners were grateful and enthusiastic about receiving the outside support and checks from members at Locals 19, 22, 23 and 24 plus the Pensioners. The Pierce County Labor Council also provided a donation to support the struggle on behalf of all union members working in the greater Tacoma area running east to Mt. Rainier. Also contributing was the South Sound Jobs for Justice chapter.

Sharing experiences

Local 23’s Brian Skiffington expressed the views of many when he delivered a brief but inspiring talk based on ideas raised during many meetings back home with the Young Workers Committee and Pensioners, based on the ILWU’s “Guiding Principles” and slogan, “an injury to one is an injury to all.”

Making new friends

“Getting better acquainted and developing friendships with these miners and their families was the best part,” said Tacoma Pensioner President Mike Jagielski. He said the encounters with Rick “Redman” Norman, an experienced miner, longtime union member and historian were especially interesting because “Redman was able to entertain and educate us with his historical facts, quick wit and good humor.”

Century of support

The history of solidarity from waterfront workers in the Puget Sound to the Idaho silver miners goes back more than a century, according to Northwest labor historian Ron Magden, who says he found records dating back at least to 1906, when $400 was sent to help silver miners with a similar struggle at the turn of the century.

Rugged beauty, deadly work

Silver Valley lies in a deep gorge where ancient Native foot trails are now covered by Interstate 90, connecting traffic between Spokane to the west and Coeur d’Alene to the east. The rich mineral veins that run through the mountains have made corporations wealthy for more than a century – while miners have struggled to avoid death and serious injuries – and get a fair share of the staggering mineral wealth that they have produced: 1.3 billion ounces of silver; half a billion ounces of gold, 200 thousand tons of copper, plus much more lead and zinc.

The Lucky Friday alone was expected to produce almost 4 million ounces of silver this year that sells for about $9 an ounce. But things changed quickly because of the strike and picket lines holding firm, contributing to Hecla’s loss of $26 million last quarter. The company is now paying $1.5-$2 million a month just to maintain their non-productive mine during the strike.

Cutbacks force strike 

Young workers in action: From left to right: Tyler Rasmussen (Local 23 casual), Tyler Brady (Local 22 Port Mechanic), and Nyef Mohamed (Local 23 Casual). All three are active participants in Tacoma’s Young Workers Committee.

The contract covering miners at the Lucky Friday expired over a year ago, in May of 2016. Workers felt forced to strike after Hecla imposed a concessionary “last, best and final” contract proposal on March 13, 2017. Only two of the 246 miners opposed a strike vote. Anger was fueled by company demands to raise health insurance costs and impose pay cuts. The company also demanded an end to some health and safety protections – including an important seniority provision that gives miners a say in who works together in the dangerous underground tunnels.

“Lowest cost” producer

 Hecla is the largest silver producer in the United States with mines in Alaska, Canada, and Mexico. In addition to their size, the company operates on a “lowest cost” philosophy – an approach that may warm the hearts of Wall Street investors but can raise the body count for miners.

Deaths on the job

A series of disasters in 2011 at Hecla’s Lucky Friday killed two miners and seriously wounded seven others, triggering a mandatory one-year shutdown by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. Families of the dead and injured workers later sued the company for allowing dangerous conditions inside the mine, but workplace injury laws – including the workers compensation system enacted a century ago – make it difficult to hold companies legally accountable. Idaho’s anti-union Supreme Court dismissed the families’ claims in 2016.

Punishing workers

  One of Hecla’s concessionary demands would reduce the 3-year “recall rights” down to just 90 days – a right miners need to keep their jobs due to closures or breaks-in-service. Under this scheme, future safety closures could cost all members to lose their jobs – a policy which some believe would dissuade workers from reporting or acting against dangerous conditions.

 Deadly mining history 

The 2011 disaster was just one of many mining tragedies in Silver Valley throughout the past century that have killed and seriously injured each generation of miners. Just a few miles from the Lucky Friday mine, a plaque memorializes the site where 91 men were killed at the Kellogg Mine in 1972.

Research proves cuts can kill

The legacy of deaths and injuries in the mining industry is well known to every family in the region. Earlier this year, a team of university researchers proved what workers have long known; that “cutting costs” and skimping on safety protections in order to boost profits and please investors, has a direct and negative impact on worker safety. An independent study published in 2017, documented how a wide-range of U.S. companies that strive hardest to please Wall Street investors have employee injury rates that are 12% higher than their peers. 

Community support

The striking miners are trying to win their struggle for safety and fair pay by enlisting community support, including local businesses that depend on miners for customers. Signs saying, “We support the Lucky Friday miners” are proudly displayed in many Silver Valley stores – similar to ones that appeared in store windows at Boron in the 2010 when the mining giant Rio Tinto locked-out 450 ILWU Local 30 members from a borate mine and processing plant for 100 days. ILWU members also enlisted small business support during the 2011 struggle against the Export Grain Terminal (EGT) in Longview, WA, and during the lengthy 2013 lockout that followed by grain terminal operators at Portland, Vancouver, Longview and Seattle.

 Friends and families

 Like most ILWU struggles, spouses, family members and friends are playing important roles in the Idaho miners’ strike, including help with media outreach. A letter-to-the-editor published by the Shoshone News Press, titled “Union women unite,” read: “As wives or significant others, it is so important to support EVERYONE as the strike progresses,” wrote Angela Thompson in her letter. “Don’t let HECLA push the new contract on us. Don’t let HECLA think we, as women, are a weak link. Remember that there are parts of the ‘last, best, and final offer’ that could hinder safety, diminish our quality of living, diminish our healthcare options and take away from our quality family time.”

Former Local 21 President’s letter

Former ILWU Local 21 President Dan Coffman, who led the fight in Longview to protect good jobs and ILWU jurisdiction at EGT in 2011, sent an early personal “open” letter of support which the miners quickly posted on their USW Local 5114 Facebook page.  “When I started looking into this strike, it became obvious to me that this is about ‘power and control,’ which many struggles are,” he said. Coffman explained that he decided to write the letter after seeing paid advertisements that Hecla was running in local Idaho newspapers, claiming that “safety and health of employees was the company’s top concern.”

Corporate campaign pressure

 Besides staffing picket lines, soliciting and disbursing hardship funds, conducting community outreach and media work, union members are also putting pressure on Hecla by analyzing the company’s corporate structure. Now that the company has admitted losing $26 million last quarter and wasting roughly $2 million a month to maintain an empty mine, workers intend to share this and other information with Hecla’s business and banking partners. Demonstrating in Denver On May 17, miners joined forces with fellow Steelworkers and other union activists from the Denver Labor

Federation to converge on the annual shareholder meeting of QEP, a Denver-based gas and oil company that’s got a cozy relationship with Hecla. The big silver mining company CEO Phillips Baker, sits on QEP’s Board of Directors – and QEP’s CEO Charles Stanley sits on Hecla’s Board.

Millions for the boss; cuts for workers

While Hecla executives are demanding cuts from the miners, their own pay has been more than generous. Hecla CEO Phillips Baker received $4.7 million in 2015 and got a huge raise to $6.4 million in 2016. Miners said that one year of Baker’s pay raise would cover their higher health insurance costs that are an important issue in the dispute.

Solidarity from far and wide

Besides help from the ILWU, significant support has come from Steelworker Locals, including Local 675 in Carson that is a longtime ally of Harborarea ILWU members. Long-distance solidarity includes the miner’s union in Mexico and Walmart workers near Tacoma. Leaders of the strike say they’ve been overwhelmed with support, which is a good thing, because they are preparing for a long, difficult battle. After the August 2

caravan and rally at Hecla’s headquarters, the company agreed to sit down with the union – only the third time since the strike began. There was no immediate progress, but workers remain determined to stay out as long as it takes to win.

“These workers are fighting for some measure of control over their jobs, just like we would fight like hell and back to save our hiring halls,” said Mike Jagielski. “These guys are used to working underground every day in conditions that are almost impossible for most of us to imagine – so I’m betting on the miners to win and with support from us and others, I think they will.”

Donations and solidarity messages can be sent to USW 5114, P.O. Box 427, Mullan, ID 83846. Local 23 Pensioner President Mike Jagielski and Local 23’s Brian Skiffington contributed to this article.

Categories: Unions

ILWU International Executive Board releases Statement of Policy on Donald Trump

Thu, 08/24/2017 - 15:15

International Longshore and Warehouse Union
International Executive Board
Vancouver, British Columbia
August 17 – 18, 2017


President Trump’s reaction to the protests and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia is so unacceptable, so beyond the bounds of human decency, and so revealing that it calls into question his suitability to continue as President of the United States. There can never be an acceptable reason to defend white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and racists KKK members and sympathizers. What President Trump has done with respect to the Charlottesville protests is no different from those who defended the Nazis in the 1930’s, except that it is coming from the President of the United States.

During the election, candidate Trump referred to Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals, mocked a disabled reporter, bragged about groping women, and otherwise put women down because of their appearance and weight. He has tried to ban Muslims from immigrating to the US because of their religious beliefs.

To those looking at Trump for alternative leadership, he managed to explain away these bigoted statements through carefully crafted press statements. This gave Trump supporters the political cover to continue their support of him. His statements following the protests and violence in Charlottesville have to cause his supporters to re-examine their views of Trump and explicitly renounce his views.

After nearly seven months in office, Trump has clearly demonstrated his lack of ability to carry out the duties of the President of the United States for the benefit of all Americans — black, brown, women, LGBT community, Jews, and Muslims. His behavior has reached the point that he is not suitable to continue as President of the United States.

Categories: Unions

West Coast longshore workers ratify contract extension;New agreement will continue until July, 2022

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 17:42

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (August 4, 2017) – The ILWU’s Coast Balloting Committee confirmed today that West Coast longshore workers at 29 ports in California, Oregon and Washington have officially ratified a three-year contract extension with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).

The Committee carefully reviewed balloting results from all longshore local unions and confirmed a tally showing that 67% of members voted in favor of the extension. The current agreement was set to expire on July 1, 2019; the newly approved three-year pact will extend the expiration to July 1, 2022.

The contract extension will raise wages, maintain health benefits, and increase pensions from 2019-2022. 

The results followed a year-long debate and democratic decision-making process which allowed every registered longshore worker from Bellingham, Washington, to San Diego, California, to express their views and cast a ballot.

“The rank-and-file membership has made their decision and expressed a clear choice,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath. “During the past year we saw a healthy debate and heard different points of view, with concerns raised by all sides. The democratic process allowed us to make a difficult decision and arrive at the best choice under the circumstances.”

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s Coast Longshore Division represents approximately 20,000 longshore workers on the West Coast of the United States.


# # # # #

Categories: Unions

Lois Stanahan: Veteran Portland activist

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 10:06

Long-distance fighter: Lois Stranahan spoke at the Oregon governor’s mansion at an event in 2001 to honor the farmworkers union. She shared stories of Cesar Chavez staying in her home, and how a shipload of boycotted California table grapes never made it to Oregon.

Longtime Portland labor and social justice advocate Lois Stranahan, passed on May 17 at the age of 97. She was born and raised on a farm in Arkansas where she played the fiddle in a family band with her five siblings.”

Like many of her generation, she migrated from the south and headed out west during the Second World War, arriving in Portland where she found work as a waitress in 1940 – and quickly helped her co-workers join the union. Before long, she found a better paying job in Portland’s shipyards as a welder and joined the Steamfitters Union with many other women who helped build Liberty Ships that transported vital goods for the war effort. After the war, Lois worked as a telephone operator and helped organize her co-workers into the Communication Workers of America and helped lead their national strike in 1947 – a year before the ILWU west coast waterfront strike. It was during these conflicts that she married Jesse Stranahan. Both were deeply devoted to the cause of union organizing and social change, with Jesse joining ILWU Marine Clerks Local 40 in 1942 and Lois joining the ILWU Auxiliary #5 where she remained active throughout her life.

In addition to her love for gardening, Lois was an excellent photographer who contributed many images that were published in The Dispatcher.  Her devotion to political activities, desire to communicate with the public and tell labor’s story, landed her in a high-profile confrontation with authorities that made headlines in Oregon. The issue involved Stranahan’s insistence on a legal right to gather petition signatures in public places – even if those places were privately owned. In 1989, she was arrested for gathering petition signatures at a Fred Meyer store in Portland. Stranahan insisted that the sidewalk in front of the supermarket was effectively a public space – even if it was located on private property – so she sued Fred Meyer and won a jury verdict with damages that was upheld by the state court of appeals.

Oregon’s Supreme Court, eventually overturned her victory and ruled for the rights of private property owners to exclude petition gathering in public areas, such as shopping malls. Among the many social justice causes she supported was the effort by members of the United Farmworkers Union to improve working conditions in the fields. She joined the consumer grape boycott in 1965 and supported the UFW effort for decades that followed. In later life she was active in the campaign to stop a sales tax in Oregon, arguing it was a “regressive” measure that fell most heavily on the poor and working class – while going easy on the state’s richest residents. In 1997, Lois and her husband were inducted into Oregon’s Labor Hall of Fame by the Labor Retirees Council, which recognized their lifetime of activism.

Jesse died the following year in April, 1998. Lois survived another 19 years until passing at her daughter’s home in Edison, New Jersey. She was buried at the Willamette National Cemetery in Portland on May 30.

Categories: Unions

Organizing victories on Hawaii’s docks

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 09:41

Ratifying the CBA: HSI Supervisors voted in favor of ratifying their newly negotiated collective bargaining agreement

2016 was a busy year of ILWU organizing activity on the docks of Hawaii. A new Matson clerical unit was organized into Local 142, and a charter was granted to ILWU Local 100 to create a home for four newly-organized units of longshore supervisors who came into the union.  Workers in these new units met on their days off to develop contract demands and to elect five separate negotiating committees. Contract talks began in late 2016 for the Matson clericals and supervisors at Hawaii Stevedores, Inc. (“HSI”), Matson Facilities and Maintenance, and Young Brothers, Ltd. Negotiations for McCabe, Hamilton and Renny supervisors started this year. International Vice President (Hawaii) Wesley Furtado served as spokesperson for each set of negotiations. “Negotiating a first collective bargaining agreement is tough.” stated Furtado. “You’ve got 30-plus sections of contract language and

economics to wrestle over with the Employers.” None of the 21 members elected to the five negotiating committees, had ever been involved in negotiations and only one worker had ever belonged to a union. Despite this, Furtado said “Members of all the committees worked hard, learned fast, and took their responsibility seriously. It wouldn’t be possible to run five separate negotiations for first contracts without strong committees. We also had great support from the 142 Hawaii Longshore Division.” In the early morning hours of Friday April 21, the first of these committees reached a tentative agreement – the new unit of Matson clericals. Later that same morning, negotiations stepped up with HSI. The outlines of a tentative agreement were hammered out over the weekend and a final tentative agreement was reached on May 2. The Matson clerical unit was able to make substantial gains in wages and benefits, including family medical with no monthly premium and

a greatly improved retirement plan. As non-union workers, many members in this unit were used to getting a bonus instead of a raise. As ILWU members, everyone will receive increases of 3 percent in each of the next three years. Some workers also saw pay upgrades in addition to their 3 percent raise. On April 30, Matson clerical workers unanimously ratified their contract. Unit Secretary Joy Borbo stated: “Before we joined the ILWU we had no representation and we were ‘at-will’ employees. Now we are bargaining unit employees, we have rights, we have the collective power to negotiate a contract, and a voice to help enforce our contract. Fortunately for us that voice is the ILWU… this is the best thing that has ever happened in my career at Matson.” Local 100 HSI supervisors held their ratification meeting on May 5, and their first contract was also unan

imously approved. HSI supervisors won a guaranteed 40-hour work week and 3.5% wage increases in each of the next three years – with back pay to September 20, 2016. In addition, some classifications received wage upgrades and premiums. HSI supervisors also won family medical benefits with no monthly premiums and – for the first time – twelve paid holidays (supervisors were previous salaried workers). As non-union salaried workers, HSI supervisors weren’t paid overtime and had no differential for working the night shift – injustices they corrected in their first union contract. “The hard-fought victories won by the Matson clerical workers and HSI supervisors will greatly benefit these workers and sets the stage for good agreements to be won at the three supervisor units still in negotiations.” Furtado said.

Categories: Unions

LEAD training aims  to strengthen a  rank-and-file union

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 15:48

Team building: The LEAD Institute program emphasized group participation and collaborative problem solving to help build a strong democratic union from the bottom-up.

A diverse group of 100 rank-and-file members and elected leaders attended the ILWU’s Leadership, Education and Development (LEAD) training in Seattle on May 7-12. The week- long education program seeks to provide tools that attendees can take back to their local unions that will encourage new leadership and more membership involvement – both fundamental tenants of the ILWU belief that strong unions are built from the bottom-up. Practical skills Dozens of exercises were conducted throughout the week, emphasizing active participation and collaborative problem-solving skills. Participants learned practical skills, including how to run a successful union meeting, how to increase member involvement, how to speak confidently in public, and how to communicate a positive, public-interest union message to the news media.

Opening remarks

Opening remarks ILWU International President Robert McEllrath opened the training, emphasizing that leadership comes in many forms and is not limited only to those holding elected union office. He reminded everyone that the ILWU’s strength comes from an active and engaged rank-and-file, not a “top down” leadership style.  “Does a leader have to be the president or secretary-treasurer of the local?” asked McEllrath. “Absolutely not,” he answered. “You’ll see a leader stand up in a union meeting and speak their mind, ask questions and go through the democratic process of our union. It’s you, the rank-and-file, who are going to make this union work.”

Keynote address

Vision: Local 19’s Alexandra Vekich served as note taker during a group exercise to develop a broad vision for the union.

On the second day of the training, a keynote address was delivered by Dr. Steven Pitts, an economist at UC Berkeley’s Labor Center. He focused on America’s growing inequality, explaining that wages for workers no longer rise with higher productivity.  During the decades following WWII until the late 1960s, Pitts said wages rose along with productivity, allowing workers to share the benefits of producing goods and services more efficiently. Pitts said that wages have been stagnant for several decades despite rising productivity levels. More profits from higher productivity are now going into the pockets of the super-rich.

“Workers in this country have been beaten-down for 40 years, and that beat-down is a result of workers lacking power,” Pitts said. He stressed that workers can begin to reverse this trend by starting with a common vision and shared values about the kind of world they want to see in the future. Pitts then led participants in a group exercise to develop that shared vision.  Presentations and group exercises that afternoon focused on how to make union meetings more effective and how different personality types and “working styles” can collaborate to make an effective team. Those sessions were facilitated by Joel Schaffer and Rick Ogelsby of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS). That was followed by a session on “Robert’s Rules of Order,” which is the process used by the ILWU and other bodies to assure orderly debate and decision making. This session was led by Local 8’s Jim Daw and Local 52’s Max Vekich; both have served as parliamentarians at Longshore Caucuses and ILWU Conventions.

The ILWU’s 10 Guiding Principles

The third day started with a discussion about the ILWU’s Ten Guiding Principles, led by pensioner Rich Austin, Sr., who presented an overview of the principles and their history. A panel discussion followed with IBU Secretary-Treasurer Terri Mast, Local 5 Union Representative Ryan Takas and Local 19 President Rich Austin, Jr., who explained the importance of the Guiding Principles and how they have shaped the union. Following the panel discussion, workshop participants voted for what they felt were the most important principles, listing favorites at one of ten easels set-up around the room.

Bridging the ‘generations gap’

Later that afternoon, conference participants discussed the need to develop and involve young leaders in the union. A discussion on “bridging the generation” gap began with a brainstorming session that explored the perspectives of younger and older workers led by Gary Hattal and Ligia Velazquez of FMCS. A panel discussion followed with ILWU Canada Second Vice-President Steve Nasby, Local 5 Secretary-Treasurer Amy Wren, ILWU 23 President Dean McGrath, Tacoma Pensioners President Mike Jagielski, and Local 23 B-Man Brian Skiffington. Panelists explained how their locals are developing younger and newer leaders. Nasby discussed ILWU Canada’s annual “Young Workers Conference” along with efforts to include ID Casuals in education and other union programs. The Tacoma delegation talked about their Young Workers’ Committee that built strong bonds between Local 23 pensioners and younger Tacoma longshore workers.

“We brought together young workers who are hungry for knowledge about the ILWU and the industry, and you have this group of pensioners who are eager to share their knowledge and experience. It’s a powerful combination,” said Mike Jagielski.  Local 5’s Amy Wren talked about the challenges of building union culture at Powell’s where the turnover rate is much higher than the longshore industry, and most workers have no personal or family experience with unions before working at Powell’s.


On day four, ILWU International Vice President Ray Familathe gave a multi-media presentation that explained the growing threat of automation on the docks, in the trucking industry and in warehouses and hotels. “I’m tired of being lied to by politicians,” said Familathe. “I don’t think there’s a politician on either side of the aisle who understands where this technology is going and what is going to happen to working people over the next few years. We need to challenge these politicians on where they stand on automation and how they expect public services can continue to be funded if more and more workers are displaced by robots.”

Communications workshop

The ILWU communications staff held a workshop in the afternoon of day four. Topics included internal and external communications strategies, developing a public-interest messages, flyer design and public speaking. The workshop was interactive, and participants worked in small groups to practice public speaking, produce their own flyers and develop messages that combined union issues with broader public concerns.

Report from Standing Rock 

Toward the end of the day, Local 4 members Steve Hunt and Jamison Roberts shared their experiences with building community support for ILWU members who were locked-out of the EGT grain terminal in Vancouver, WA for 18 months, ending in late 2014. They also shared details about their recent solidarity efforts to support the Lakota Sioux and other Native Americans who opposed the Dakota Access pipeline that was proposed to run through their land.  Hunt said the tactics he saw on TV used by the police against Native Americans reminded him of how ILWU members had been treated in Vancouver during the lockout. “I wanted to go there and see for myself what was happening, and not rely on what the media was telling me,” he said. “I know they police aren’t there to protect the grass. They have the backs of the oil companies, just like they had the backs of the grain companies in Vancouver,” he said.  Hunt and Roberts were the first ILWU members on the ground at Standing Rock protest. They brought a trailer full of donated supplies from Local 4 members and stayed for a week to provide assistance. Delegations from Locals 10, 13 and 23 followed, and the ILWU Executive Board and the Coast Longshore Division both donated funds to support the cause.

Member Action Plan

The week culminated with the Member Action Plan (MAP) exercise. Small working groups were tasked with developing a plan to help new members get more involved in their local unions.   The idea was introduced by Fred Glass, Communications Director for the American Federation of Teachers, who helped develop the exercise with former ILWU Education Director Gene Vrana. Each group was asked to begin by assessing the current needs of their locals to determine any shortcomings that now exist with new member education, outreach and orientation. Those insights were combined with skills and approaches learned during the week, then shaped into a proposed plan that was presented to the conference on the final morning of the training.

Closing address

On the final day, ILWU International Secretary Treasurer Willie Adams delivered closing remarks to the conference. He stressed the need for participants to bring back what they had learned and apply that knowledge to work with their local union officers. “What will you do with all of this knowledge? What will happen when you get back home? Will your momentum and enthusiasm die out? Will you be on fire when you get home or will you just go back to doing what we’ve always been doing?” Adams asked. Active members, strong unions Local 500 member Joulene Parent, who now works on her local’s Education Committee, said her own experience as a casual dockworker illustrated how important it is to actively encourage new workers to participate.  “I’m one of those people who was pulled into working with our union’s Education Committee before I became a full member,” Parent said. “I used to think that you had to be a fully-registered member to get educated and that it was an exclusive club. But Local 500 members reached out to me, invited me, encouraged me to participate, and made me feel like I had something to contribute. Now I see that our inactive members and casuals are resources lying dormant that could benefit our union.”

Categories: Unions

Local 20 gets new contract with Rio Tinto at Port of LA

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 15:19

A new five-year contract has been ratified covering 77 members of ILWU Local 20 who work on a private dock at the Port of Los Angeles where they load and process materials mined at Rio Tinto’s giant borate mine and plant in the Mojave Desert that employs over 500 members of Local 30 in Boron, CA. Retirement benefits The Local 20 Negotiating Committee of Rudy Dorame, Mike Gonzolo, Tim Simpson and Robert Frazier began negotiating in December of 2016. They reached a tentative agreement with the company on June 3, and members ratified the new contract a week later. The new agreement will increase defined pension benefits from the current $75 per year of service to $80 at the end of the 5-year contract. The company also provides a 401(k) savings plan for newer employees. Recovering some lost ground A previous contract opened the door for a “two-tier” pay and retirement scheme that caused divisions between newer and older workers, that

would eventually lower pay throughout the shop. To help, the new contract guarantees minimum raises of 2.5% to everyone for each of the 5 years, while also providing 3.5% raises to lowerpaid, newer workers in years 4 and 5. Another improvement restores seniority bidding rights to everyone hired after 2011. The new agreement also provides more vacation carry-over, better death benefits, more funeral leave, and higher allowances for safety shoes

and glasses. The probationary period was also reduced from 120 to 60 days, improving job security for new members. The company also agreed to post overtime equalization charts and share testing results when they’re required for bidding certain jobs. A last-minute effort by the company to claw back a $1000 signing bonus was also defeated and that cash payout became part of the package.

Local 20 gets new contract with Rio Tinto at Port of LA

Unity was important “We tried to keep everyone informed and members stayed united,” said Local 20 President Rudy Dorame, who also thanked “all of our brothers and sisters from the surrounding locals in our area,” noting that “the ILWU family here in the harbor really came through for us.” He also mentioned international support that included Australia’s CFMEU. “I think all the support and solidarity made Rio Tinto take our contract talks more seriously,” said Dorame.

Categories: Unions