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International Longshore and Warehouse Union
Updated: 1 day 25 min ago

Call to the 37th Convention

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 15:45
Categories: Unions

The history of “right-to-work”

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 16:24

King knew it was wrong: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. pulled no punches about “right-to-work” being racist and immoral.  The honorary member of ILWU Local 10, spoke out in 1961:  “In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone. Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.” King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis while supporting a strike by public sanitation workers.

In 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) that legalized the right of workers to form unions, negotiate contracts and conduct job actions. It also recognized the importance of “union shops” where all workers shared the cost of maintaining their union. The President made a point of signing the NLRA (also known as the Wagner Act) in the port city of Tacoma, on July 5. That date, recognized then and now as “Bloody Thursday,” honored waterfront workers killed during the West Coast waterfront strike that gave rise to today’s ILWU.

Some workers were excluded

The new law helped millions join unions and improve working conditions during the next three decades – and created a more secure working class that was eventually called “middle class” by those who were uncomfortable talking about working class power. But the NLRA also excluded large numbers of workers in order to win enough votes to pass Congress where racist Southern legislators demanded the exclusion of farm workers, domestic workers and public employees. To this day, those three classes of workers lack the same federal protections that once protected most private-sector workers. Today those protections have been greatly weakened by big business, but until recently, they allowed millions of workers to join unions

Business lost the first 4 rounds

Business owners who hated labor unions and President Roosevelt were furious when the NLRA passed in 1935. They sued to overturn the law in federal court and tried to block unions from collecting dues from everyone in union shops. In 1937, the Supreme Court sided with workers by allowing the NLRA to remain in place and confirmed the right of unions to collect fees from everyone in a union shop. In just two years following major strikes in 1934 and organizing by longshore, auto, steel and other workers, at least four dramatic victories had been secured: passage of the NLRA plus two victories in the Supreme Court, and passage of the Social Security Act that passed in 1935.

Excluded, but they organized

While private-sector workers were organizing during the 1930’s and three decades that followed, workers on farms, government jobs and private households continued to struggle on their own, forming unions occasionally when they could, but receiving little or no protection from the federal government.

Farm workers

In Hawaii, the ILWU made history with successful campaigns beginning in the early 1940’s that eventually organized the island’s sugar and pineapple workers on a mass scale, enabling them to become the highest-paid agricultural workers in America.

Labor activists helped farm workers organize powerful strikes and some unions during the 1930’s in California’s Central Valley, Salinas Valley, Imperial Valley and in eastern Washington State. Workers there continued organizing job actions throughout the 1960’s and beyond when the United Farmworkers Union passed the first farm labor law in the country in 1975 that allowed farm workers to organize unions in California.

In Southern states, activists helped tenant farmers and sharecroppers build unions during the 1930’s, helping both African-American and white farm workers to loosen the grip of debt and abuse that forced many families to live in virtual slavery since the Civil War.

Domestic workers

Domestic workers, including many African American women, also organized in the 1930’s with assistance from activists including Ella Baker, who described street corners in Manhattan and the Bronx as modern day “slave markets,” where women gathered each morning for a daily “shape-up.” Like longshore workers, they organized, and eventually forced New York’s Mayor La Guardia to create hiring halls with regulations that improved conditions for many.

In recent times, new organizing efforts by domestic workers have passed new domestic labor laws in eight states, including California, Oregon and Hawaii.

Public workers form unions

Public employees were inspired during the 1930’s by gains made by private sector workers inside factories and warehouses. Some of the first public workers to form unions were postal workers and teachers concerned about pay, benefits and working conditions – but also about abusive politicians who encouraged bribery to determine pay and job assignments instead of civil service.

Public unions grow in 1960’s

Public sector unions saw relatively little growth until the 1960’s when large numbers began joining unions and demanding the right to become legal and bargain contracts. During the next 30 years, organizing continued on a large scale as teachers, firemen, ferry workers, police, security and prison guards, road repair, water and sewer workers, planners, librarians and others joined public unions. By the year 2000 the number of public sector union members equaled private sector union members – while private-sector union members declined to today’s level – just 6% of the workforce.

Good news and bad news

As pubic unions successfully organized for better wages and benefits in the 1960’s and beyond, they first tried to catch-up with better paying jobs in the private sector that had risen because of union pressure. Workers also correctly noted that most public employees received no Social Security (another exclusion granted to conservatives in 1935 when the Social Security Act was passed by Congress), so demands for a secure retirement were addressed with defined-benefit pensions approved by politicians in charge of school districts, cities, counties and state governments. Within a decade or so, public wage increases and benefits began to surpass what private sector workers were able to bargain because their unions were growing weaker.

Anti-union reaction

At the same time, capitalists were shifting investment to the nonunion south and overseas, part of the “de-industrialization” and offshoring that still haunts much of middle America. Inflation also increased during the 1970’s because of massive spending for the war in Vietnam, along with funding for healthcare, education Medicare and other important programs.

Fear increased among workers and pensioners that they were falling behind and might lose their homes – especially in California where property taxes kept rising to pay for the growing public sector, which accounted for one in six jobs in the Golden State.

These factors – including the different fortunes of public and private sector union members – created dangerous divisions within the working class that were ripe for exploitation by right-wing politicians who used the opportunity to harvest votes by turning public and private sector union members – and the large non-union working class – against each other.

Division & conquest

One of the first high-profile battles for the heart and soul of America’s divided working class was fought and lost in California over Proposition 13. The property tax cap was the brainchild of two rightwing extremists; Howard Jarvis and Paul Gann, who called their plan to freeze property taxes, “the People’s Initiative.” The measure passed by almost 2-1 despite strong opposition from public sector unions and most politicians. The following year, Paul Gann passed another initiative to severely limit government spending and punish public union members. Politicians were terrified by the popular support for both initiatives, and some, including Jerry Brown, reversed course to support Paul Gann and become a self-proclaimed “fiscal conservative.”

Union-friendly politicians, meanwhile, tried to maintain loyalty to both private and public sector union members. But private sector members were increasingly anxious about their falling wages, rising taxes and dim prospects – while public sector members continued to push for as much as they could win at the bargaining table – not always appreciating that their “employers” included many increasingly anxious members of the working class who were being lured with appeals to “cut taxes” and vote against “greedy unions.”

As this conflict brewed, the fiscal crisis grew worse because the public sector kept growing in response to demands for education, health care and services to help more families living in poverty.

Wisconsin and beyond

The culmination of these forces were on full view in Wisconsin during 2010, when voters transformed the state from a union and Democratic Party stronghold, to a state that elected anti-union Governor Scott Walker. After winning, Walker stripped collective bargaining rights from public employees, triggering massive protests and support from ILWU members who travelled there to show their solidarity. But Walker defeated a recall election in 2012 and was reelected in 2014. Similarly, House Speaker Paul Ryan has consistently won his swing district that once included many industrial union members before the jobs left when capitalists closed plants in search of cheaper labor. Similar changes have taken place recently in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and other states where current and former union members were once a powerful progressive block, but now increasingly vote for anti-union politicians who support tax cuts, de-regulation, low wages, “right-to-work” and other antiunion laws. The final insult to union solidarity came with the election of Donald Trump who had a long record of anti-union behavior that many current and former union members overlooked while accepting his promises to restore jobs and power for the working class – then flipping to embrace Wall Street and the one-percent after winning the election.

Business dream of “right to work”

The Supreme Court is now poised to outlaw the right of public unions to collect representation fees in “union shops,” and impose “right-to-work” laws on all public union members.

This reversal marks the fulfillment of a dream going back to the 1930’s when Southern segregationists first peddled the idea of “right-to-work” as part of a strategy to thwart unions, stop “race-mixing” in workplaces, and block racial minorities from gaining their fair share of power and respect in society.

Trump backs anti-union case

On December 6, Trump administration lawyers in the Justice Department filed a “friend of the court” brief backing the Janus case against union members.

Categories: Unions

Supreme Court’s “Janus” case will impact members

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 15:24

Providing public service: Washington State ferry workers who belong to the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU) are among millions of public employees who are likely to be impacted by a pending Supreme Court decision that aims to weaken unions, known as the “Janus” case. Shown on deck are (L-R): Matt Williams, Antonia Sullivan, Scott Johnson,
Kimberly Berry, and Drew Botti. Photo by Julianne Duncan.

The better pay, benefits and rights on the job that ILWU members and other union workers have enjoyed for decades are being challenged this year by a clever plan to weaken unions, called “right to work.”

Supreme Court’s “Janus” case

The U.S. Supreme Court recently announced they will hear a case in 2018 called “Janus versus AFSCME” that seeks to strip public unions of their right to collect dues from everyone covered by a union contract, and impose “right-to-work” rules on all public-sector union members in the United States. A decision harming public employee union members is virtually certain because President Trump recently filled a vacancy on the Supreme Court with Neil Gorsuch, who holds anti-union views and favors big business.

Details about Janus

Mark Janus is a public employee in Illinois who sued his AFSCME union because he objected to paying his small share of fees needed to cover the union’s representation costs that protect his contract, pay, benefits and rights on the job. Janus says he opposes unions so strongly that paying any fees would violate his First Amendment rights. The Janus case has massive support from anti-union business groups.

Key court cases

In 1977, public unions won a Supreme Court decision called “Abood” that affirmed their right to collect dues or “fair share fees” from all workers covered by a union contract. Since that decision, antiunion Presidents – especially Reagan and both Bush’s – appointed more anti-union justices to the court.

Two years ago, the Supreme Court heard a similar case – also backed by big business – on behalf of a California school teacher named Rebecca Friedrichs, who also held strong anti-union views. The court deadlocked on whether she was obligated to pay fees to the teacher’s union by a vote of 4 to 4, because Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly.

Anti-union politicians then blocked President Obama from filling the Scalia vacancy with someone who would respect workers and unions. When President Trump filled the vacancy with Justice Gorsuch, he sent a green light to corporate America that “right-to-work” would soon become the law of the land for public workers, and eventually all union members.

What is “right-to-work”?

“Right-to-work” is a clever scheme designed in the 1930’s by big business to keep unions weak and wages low. It essentially outlaws “union shops” – workplaces covered by a union contract where everyone pays either dues or their “fair share” of fees to cover the cost of representing workers and protecting good pay, benefits and work rules.

Encouraging “freeloaders”

Under “right-to-work” rules, union members can no longer vote to require everyone in their workplace to support the union by paying either dues or fair-share fees. Only voluntary contributions are allowed by “right-to-work laws” – and only if each worker provides specific, written authorization. Some “right-to- work” laws already in place in many states require unions to collect separate, signed authorization forms each year from individual workers in order to collect any dues money.

From South to North

For decades, right-to-work laws existed only in Southern States where business owners used them to keep unions weak, wages low and workplaces segregated. Now there are 28 states, including Wisconsin and Michigan, with these laws. If the Supreme Court rules as expected by June, “right-to-work-for-less” will become the law of the land for every public-sector union member.

Designed to frustrate & fail

When the Supreme Court rules on Janus, it won’t just restrict the ability of unions to collect dues or representation fees – it’s likely to also maintain the legal obligation for unions to represent all workers covered by union contracts– even those who don’t pay any dues or “fair share” fees to cover enormous costs of representation and arbitration. This “double-bind” is exactly how corporations behind the Janus case and “right to work” laws hope to frustrate, weaken and bankrupt unions.

Public workers first

The Janus decision will immediately affect public sector union members, but most observers believe corporations behind right-to-work will eventually ask the court to apply the same restrictive principle to all union members, including those with private-sector employers, including longshore, warehouse, industrial and service workers.

Impact on the IBU and beyond

The ILWU represents thousands of public-sector employees, the largest number being public ferry workers in Washington and Alaska who are represented by the ILWU’s Marine Division, the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU). Hundreds more work for the Golden Gate Ferry District and other public employers including Port Police at Locals 65 and 22; Security personnel at Locals 9 and 28; Port pilots at Local 68, and more.

“Public employees are almost half of the IBU membership, so dealing with “right-to-work” is a top priority for our union now,” said newly-elected IBU President Marina Secchitano.

IBU Secretary-Treasurer Terri Mast prepared a memo suggesting a strategy for right-to-work that was distributed to the ILWU International Executive Board meeting that met in San Francisco on December 14-15.

“It’s important that we start to build an internal campaign now to educate all our members,” said Mast, who outlined a member-to-member outreach effort that envisions trainings to conduct “one-on-one” conversations which explain the need to stay strong and sign dues authorization cards.

ILWU strategy

“The success or failure of this anti-union attack will be determined by what we do this year,” said ILWU International President Bob McEllrath, “They picked this fight with public workers for 2018, so we have to start educating and training members now in order to come out on top when the court ruling comes down later this year.” McEllrath says it’s too late to stop the Supreme Court from ruling against workers in favor of the right-to-work laws long sought by big business. “That train left the station when Trump was elected President and he appointed Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.”

The best move now for the ILWU and other unions, McEllrath says, is the approach advocated by the IBU’s Terri Mast: a bottom-up, rank-and-file campaign to educate members by conducting thousands of ‘one-on-one’ conversations

“Our goal should be to convince 100% of union members that the only way to protect good contracts and power on the job is by voluntarily paying our union dues each month,” he says.

First steps

In December, McEllrath told the International Executive Board that he was directing the ILWU’s Organizing, Education and Communications Departments to help the IBU and other public workers in the ILWU by gearing-up for an educational campaign.

This article in The Dispatcher marks the beginning of a union-wide effort to inform members about the ILWU’s strategy for staying strong despite the “right-to-work” attack. Recent issues of The Dispatcher have also carried information about the looming threat posed by “right-to-work” (see articles in the sidebar) and future issues of The Dispatcher will devote coverage to the ongoing educational campaign.

Education through conversations

The centerpiece of the outreach effort envisioned by the IBU is a rank-and-file educational campaign, based around “one-on-one” conversations between members.

Training volunteer trainers

The IBU is planning to begin with a series of training workshops for rank-and- file leaders who commit to serve as volunteer trainers in their workplaces.

The International Union intends to prioritize the IBU’s large public employee membership in the Washing ton and Alaska ferry systems, plus other ILWU locals with large numbers of public employees.

The IBU training sessions for rank-and-file volunteer trainers would include time for them to work with organization’s elected leaders on a customized outreach plan. The goal is to identify and train enough volunteers to conduct one-on-one conversations with every public worker.

What works – and doesn’t

A review of what other unions have been doing – or not doing – to maintain a high percentage of voluntary dues paying members despite right-to-work laws, shows that programs are succeeding because of three factors:

Keys to success

First, unions have to commit time and resources to support an intensive, member-driven educational campaign. Just passing out flyers or mailing newsletters without personal conversations won’t work. It takes time and effort to talk with each member, but it has proven to be the most effective approach and there are no shortcuts.

Second, unions need to train volunteers how to engage in two-way conversations. The key is to have a real conversation that begins by asking questions, then listening carefully and making workers feel comfortable about sharing their true feelings. Members who want to share criticism or feedback about the union must feel heard and acknowledged – not dismissed or ignored.

Finally, a successful outreach campaign requires local unions to keep careful records that track who has been contacted in what areas, and who has signed a dues pledge card – along with notes of particular concerns that might make a worker hesitate to voluntarily pay dues.

Unions can get stronger

Unions that followed these steps are reporting that most of their co-workers are voluntarily paying dues and keeping their unions strong. Many also say the member-to-member approach has made their locals much stronger because workers are more involved.

High price of failure

On the other hand, there are examples where right-to-work has destroyed unions that failed to involve members, including some in Wisconsin that started too late and didn’t engage honestly and personally with co-workers. Those unions have now collapsed with only a small minority who are voluntarily paying dues to unions that have little or no power.

“Unions that don’t have strong membership support can quickly lose their dues base because of right-to-work laws, which triggers a financial crisis with staff layoffs and fewer financial resources to help members protect the contract – all of which makes joining the union less attractive,” says Mast, who describes that scenario as a “death spiral” that unions must avoid at all cost.

Unions across the country that are successfully using the member-to- member approach to overcome “right-to-work” laws will meet April 6-8 in Chicago at the Labor Notes conference where 2,000 participants will share lessons and experiences. The ILWU will participate in the event and prepare an article on “lessons learned” – along with a report on the ILWU’s own education campaign – that will be published in May issue of The Dispatcher.

Now’s the time to begin

Given what’s at stake, McEllrath says he wants to start the membership education campaign immediately.

“If we want to stay strong and united enough to deal with powerful employers, then we can’t afford any delays in engaging the rank-and-file.”

Categories: Unions

Lewis “Lou” Loveridge: important So Cal union leader passes

Thu, 12/28/2017 - 11:32

Lou Loveridge was an active participant and shaper of history during his ninety years that included a deep commitment to the ILWU and lifelong devotion to trade unionism that ended peacefully on November 16, 2017.

He was born on November 13, 1923 in the tiny community of Jefferson, South Dakota, a farm town located near the Missouri River in the farthest southeast corner of the state. His parents, Paul and Magel, raised their family with Lou and seven other children during the difficult years of the Great Depression, finally moving west to California in search of a better life when Lou was 14. When the Second World War erupted, Lou and his three other brothers – Fuzz, Chick and Joe – all served in the military. Lou joined the Navy where he became a Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class, assigned to duty aboard the U.S.S. Moctobi, an ocean-going tug that remained afloat until she was finally scrapped in 2012 at Mare Island, Vallejo, CA.

Lou had many loves, beginning with his wife Dorothy who passed  in 2000, his daughter Cheryl, and another daughter Stephanie who preceded him in death. His six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren were his pride and joy.  Other loves included a large number of pet dogs that he adored over many years; trying his luck at Las Vegas, Laughlin and local race tracks; his beautifully-restored bright-red Mustang; the Rams and Angels; collecting coins and donating to charities; listening to music and enjoying a glass of good wine.

His love for the ILWU and union causes of all kinds was also a deep devotion. Lou and all three of his brothers became longshoremen and members of Local 13. His skills and commitment were recognized by co-workers, who elected him to serve as their Vice President from 1973-74. A few years later he was elected to the top post at Local 13, serving as President during 19781979, again in 1982-1983 and a final term in 1986-1987.

He attended Longshore Caucus meetings regularly, both as a member and later as a Pensioner. After retiring from the job but not the struggle, he was elected President of the Southern California Pensioners’ Group. Three days before his passing, Lou celebrated his 90 birthday surrounded by a group of active Pensioners who brought him a cake.

“It was the last thing he ate,” said his daughter Cheryl. While confined to bed for his birthday, Lou expressed “how lucky I am to have the ILWU in my life,” and told everyone that he owed “everything I attained in life to the ILWU Harry Bridges.” A memorial service was held on December 2 in Rancho Palos Verdes that drew a large number of family, friends, union and community members who came from throughout the region to pay their respects to Lou.

Categories: Unions

Volunteers help members change for better lives

Tue, 12/19/2017 - 15:22

Caring Community: Among those attending the Bay Area ADRP Annual Coordinators Training in November were (L-R) John Castanho, Northern CA Representative Hunny Powell, Eric Linker, Eric Bowden, Ernie Aguayo, Sally Bowden, Bill Aviles, Shirley Aviles, Eric Sanchez, James Curtis, Henry Pellom, Herbert Burnley, Benefits Plan Office Manager Mario Perez, Tyrice C. Powell, Geoffrey Simpson, and Norman McLeod, (not shown but participating were Timothy Hughes, Stanley Scott, Steve Antunez and Larry Thomas.)

Each year, volunteers from different West Coast regions gather and receive a “thank you” for donating their time and effort to help fellow union members who are struggling to be free from alcohol and drug abuse. The volunteers all participate in the Alcoholism and Drug Recovery Program (ADRP) supported by the ILWU and Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).

This year’s Bay Area event featured a wide range of guest speakers and discussions that covered addiction, medical research, treatment programs and more.

Most of the volunteers have firsthand experience with what it takes to kick a life-destroying habit, and they’re willing to talk openly about their struggles to stop using substances and behaving in ways that cause problems at home and work. They say it’s all part of being honest about who they are, and a good way to help connect with others who are suffering from the same problem they once had.

“I’ve been clean and sober for 29 years, but it was a struggle to quit then and it requires a constant effort to stay clean,” said Norman McLeod, who’s now retired but remains active in the Bay Area Pensioner’s Club in addition to his ADRP volunteering. “I want to help everyone, especially young people, avoid some of the mistakes we made by getting into drinking and drugs.”

Coast Benefits Specialist John Castanho offered some historical perspective that received nods of agreement from many in the room. “Earlier generations of longshore workers, including some in my family, thought that alcoholism was just a normal part of work.

That’s changing, thanks in large part to the work done by the ADRP Coordinators and volunteers like you.”

The ADRP program resulted from steady membership pressure that built over the years, beginning in 1956 when the issue was first debated openly at a Longshore Caucus meeting. The PMA and ILWU started a trial program in 1964 after arbitrator Sam Kagal asked the union and management what they were doing to help workers with addiction problems. Some locals, including 10, 13 and 21 had experimented with their own programs, but it wasn’t until 1980 that the ADRP was formally established to provide intensive help for all members.

“We’re the best place to get help and information without feeling judged or jeopardizing your job,” said Hunny Powell, who now coordinates the Bay Area ADRP and was once a substance user herself. “Back then I called George Cobbs for help and it changed my life,” she said, referring to the former ADRP leader who passed away in July, 2017.

Thanks to the pioneering efforts of Cobbs, Bill Ward, Ed Torres, Chick Loveridge and many others, the ADRP today helps hundreds of people get clean and sober each year up and down the coast. Mario Perez from the ILWU-PMA Benefit Plans Office reported that 247 claims for alcohol or drug treatment were processed by his office last year. Most of those involved first-time treatments, but members who need a second, third or even fourth chance to enroll in a high-quality residential treatment program are able to get help to recover.

In addition to the formal treatment programs, ADRP volunteers provide a daily lifeline of support and encouragement for dozens of co-workers who they contact each week.

“We have an impressive network of people who are trained and ready to help around the clock,” said Powell. “Our program is based on people who have been there, done that, and know what it takes to put the problem behind you – one day at a time. It starts with a phone call, and I look forward to hearing from more people who want help.”

Categories: Unions

ILWU disaster relief team provides solidarity and assistance to communities in Puerto Rico

Tue, 12/19/2017 - 12:25

Power to the people: ILWU mechanic Arch Chaney helped get the power
generator at the Mayaguez Zoo in Puerto Rico running. They then discovered the
control panel would need to be replaced. After returning to the mainland, the ILWU team worked to get a replacement part donated and shipped to the zoo. Photo by Benson MacForrest.

When Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico on September 20, it left millions of Americans on the island without access to clean water, food and electricity. After hearing news reports of the devastation and humanitarian crisis – and slow response by FEMA to provide emergency relief – ILWU Local 23 members were moved to action.

The ILWU is no stranger to disaster relief. In the past few months alone, ILWU members in the Pacific Northwest and California have donated money, supplies, and time to assist those impacted by wildfires in Oregon and California. The ILWU has always been quick to send financial assistance from the union’s disaster relief fund when tsunamis, earthquakes and other disasters harm working families and communities around the globe.

Local 23 President Dean McGrath reached out to Tote Marine to see if they would be willing help support a relief mission to aid Puerto Rican
families. McGrath was familiar with Tote’s regular service from Tacoma to Alaska – and he also knew they operated a run from Jacksonville to Puerto
Rico, and were familiar with servicing remote communities.

Tote immediately agreed to help. They covered most of the transportation costs for the relief crew and equipment.
Ports America donated four generators and four chainsaws; WCTS donated six cordless hand drills. Local 23 voted to provide financial assistance for the delegation. A total of 9 ILWU members went on the relief mission: six members from Local 23, two members from Local 21 and one member from Local 19. Each member of the delegation came prepared to camp for
the eight days during their relief effort and brought their own food, water and other supplies. The delegation members included Local 23 President Dean
McGrath, Local 23 members Arturo Guajardo, Arch Chaney, Benson Macforrest, Steven Conde and Derek Phill;
Local 22 members Craig Brix and Scott Hopson; and Local 19 member Jennifer Haynes-Borden.

“This was the most amazing experiences I’ve ever been a part of and also the most difficult thing logistically I’ve ever tried,” said McGrath. “Something like this helps build solidarity in the local. You get to work closely, side by side with your union brothers and sisters in a way that you don’t on the job. On the docks, we are all stuck in a piece of equipment. Here we are working
together, shoulder to shoulder, like the old days.”

McGrath said he tried reaching out to labor unions and aid groups that ILWU members could join to coordinate their efforts. He eventually found a group of military veterans called the Warfighter Disaster Response Team (WFDRT), who were already in Puerto Rico providing aid on the ground and welcomed the ILWU team to join them. The Afghanistan and Iraq combat veterans formed WFDRT after Hurricane Harvey struck Houston. Their mission was to utilize skills and training they had acquired while on active duty to help those affected by natural disasters or other emergencies. The ILWU relief delegation set up base at the Port of Mayaguez on the Northwest side of Puerto Rico. They worked with WFDRT to distribute
food and water to isolated villages and communities. They distributed as many as 8,000 meals a day.

“As longshoremen, we move cargo. We don’t own the cargo, nor do we own the businesses that ship the cargo,” said Local 23 member Benson MacForrest. “We are labor, and one thing Labor does well is take care of their people. That’s what we came to Puerto Rico to do.”

Another project that ILWU members took on was at the Dr. Juan A Rivera Mayaguez Zoo, where they cleared debris and fallen trees at the zoo. The three ILWU diesel mechanics that were a part of the delegation helped get the zoo’s Caterpillar generator running to restore power there. They discovered that after 15 years without being used, the generator’s control panel was not operating ILWU disaster relief team provides solidarity and assistance to communities in Puerto Rico properly and had to be replaced. After the ILWU team left Puerto Rico, they worked with Caterpillar to secure a replacement. Caterpillar donated the part and shipped it for free to Puerto Rico. The generator is now up and running.

ILWU ambassador: Arturo Guajardo’s Spanish speaking skills were invaluable
to the ILWU team. He helped to make contact with residents daily and explain what
they were doing. This helped make sure assistance got where it was needed. Photo by Benson MacForrest

“The Zoológico Dr. Juan A. Rivero recognizes the ILWU team for their selfless sacrifice in the recovery efforts,” said zoo officials in a recent statement. “This team was instrumental in the removal of trees that had fallen in difficult places and in difficult conditions that were extremely dangerous to remove. All of which the team did successfully, with no injuries because of a professional standard is rarely seen in the workforce.

“After the team had left the island, Arch Chaney and Dean McGrath, along with the team and their supporters continued to aid us in our mission. The team was instrumental in getting the Zoo a badly needed part for our Caterpillar Generator. This incredible fortitude by the union members reflects great credit upon themselves, their community, the International
Longshore Warehouse Union, our great nation and humanity in general.

“The situation of the zoo is the reflection of the island where communities had to empower themselves to be able to provide basic needs. There are volunteer heroes like you who do not shy away leave a legacy and make this a better world.”

Categories: Unions

ILWU Members from West Coast Ports Travel to Support KEX Grainhandlers

Tue, 12/19/2017 - 11:43

Top row, from left to right: Seth Barnhart, Lance Paul, Vince Meyer, Steve Utter Jr., Mark Boultinghouse, Ron Nelson, Alexis Nelson, Micah Brennan, Dustin Satcher, Tom Sager, Brandon Hendrick. Bottom row, from left to right: Mike Boyd, Larry Barnhart, Korbin Utter, Landon Utter, J.J. Burkey, Pat Brennan, Dave Thomas, Colton Aschoff. Present but not
pictured: Tim Hansen, Brian Grimes, Matt Aschoff, James Shimer, Chuck Knighten, Gary Gates.

More than 300 ILWU members from ports up and down the West Coast led a spirited march through a chilly Northwest rain on November 8 to make their voices loud and clear at the gate of Kalama Export Company (KEX).

They shouted their demand in unison:

What do we want?
Equal benefits!
When do we want them?
Now!

The “benefits” means the security of the ILWU-PMA pension and welfare plan. Ironically, the company that owns KEX already provides these benefits – but only to workers at one of the two grain export facilities that it owns on the Columbia River. Pacificor, a joint venture of some of the world’s most powerful companies, owns KEX at the Port of Kalama, Washington, and also owns Columbia Export Terminal (CET) 50 miles upriver at the Port of Portland, Oregon.Workers at the Portland terminal receive ILWU-PMA benefits, but workers at the Kalama terminal cope with an inferior health plan and a 401(k) account that offers no guarantees of long term retirement security.

“It’s not right that the same employer has one standard for its workers in Portland but another for its workers in Kalama,” said Local 21 President Billy Roberts. “The work is the same, the hazards are the same, and the need for family health benefits and retirement security are the same,” said Roberts. “But the employer has refused, for three years at the negotiating table, to meet the industry standard on benefits. KEX needs to meet the same standard for its grainhandlers in Kalama as it already does for its grainhandlers in Portland.”

Local 21’s support on Nov. 7 was unmistakable in a small town like Kalama: 300 Longshore workers chanted their message along the railroad tracks that led to KEX gates, and they gathered at KEX in bright orange shirts that read, “ILWU Grainhandlers United for Equal Benefits for KEX Workers.”

About 100 of those ILWU members traveled from as far away as Tacoma and Seattle to the north, and San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles and Long Beach to the south. Elected officers from the ILWU International Headquarters and other West Coast ports took to the mic to urge Pacificor to meet the industry standard at KEX. International Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe, International Secretary- Treasurer Willie Adams, and Coast Committeemen Cam Williams and Frank Ponce De Leon all boosted the crowd with powerful messages of solidarity from the Coast Longshore Division.

“Pacificor’s representatives have flat-out refused to consider the union’s demand that the employer provide the same benefits in Kalama as they do in Portland,” said Cam Williams, Coast Committeeman. “Our message to Pacificor’s executives at Gavilon, Marubeni and ADM is to return to the negotiating table and reach an agreement that meets the
very simple demand of providing equal benefits at both facilities.” Pacificor is a joint venture including:

• Japan-based Marubeni (doing business as Gavilon)

• Japan-based Mitsubishi

• US-based Archer Daniels Midland

Proud Local 4 family member:
Jameson McEllrath enthusiastically carried his own weight – perhaps literally – at the Nov. 8 rally to support Local 21 members at KEX. Introducing himself to many of his 300 fellow marchers, Jameson borrowed KEX worker Pat Brennan’s picket sign and made his
support clear.

The other Northwest grain elevators that provide ILWU-PMA pension and welfare benefits are Columbia Export Terminal (CET) in Portland, Export Grain Terminal (EGT) in Longview, Louis Dreyfus Commodities (LDC) in Portland, Louis Dreyfus Commodities (LDC) in Seattle, TEMCO in Portland, TEMCO in Kalama, TEMCO in Tacoma, and United Grain Company (UGC) in Vancouver, WA.

Ownership of what is now the KEX terminal has changed hands several times over its 3-decade history. The workers at the terminal originally entered the union with an affiliated agreement, and are fed up with the employers’ substandard benefits.

The local newspaper, The Daily News, wrote a lengthy article about the march and noted that “dockworkers overwhelmingly rejected a previous company offer.”

“The grainhandlers at KEX have the support they need to stand strong,” said Williams.

 

Categories: Unions

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

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

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

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