ILWU Caucus Takes No Action To Stop Scabs At NW Grain Ports

ILWU Caucus Takes No Action To Stop Scabs At NW Grain Ports
Longshore Caucus convenes in San Francisco

• MAY 3, 2013 12:06 PM

Eighty-one delegates elected from Longshore, Clerk and Foremen Locals attended the Longshore Division Caucus that was convened in San Francisco from April 15-19. Among the key issues discussed were the ongoing lockout of grain handlers in Vancouver, WA; new technologies and mechanization; efforts to resolve the ongoing problems with ILWU-PMA Coastwise Indemnity Plan’s new third party administrator, Zenith-American Solutions; preparations for the 2014 Coastwise Longshore Contract negotiations; and international solidarity efforts as employers increase their attacks on wages and working conditions of dock workers around the world. Shortly after the Caucus started, delegates got word of the tragic bombing at the Boston Marathon. The Caucus paused for a moment of silence to honor those who were killed and injured by the brutal and senseless act of violence.

Health and Welfare

The Coast Committee reported on continued challenges in the area of health and welfare. In 2008 contract negotiations, the parties agreed to replace Cigna as the administrator of the ILWU-PMA Coastwise Claims Office (CCO) in San Francisco. After negotiations, a study was conducted regarding the feasibility of bringing the administration of the CCO in-house. PMA refused to bring this function in-house. A “request for proposal” (RFP) process was initiated in order to find a replacement for Cigna as required by 2008 negotiations. The field of potential third-party administrators was narrowed to two companies.

The Union moved to hire BeneSys, and the Employers moved to hire Zenith-American Solutions. This deadlock was arbitrated, and the Coast Arbitrator agreed with PMA over the strenuous objections of the Union Trustees. Zenith began operating as the new third-party administrator of the CCO on January 1, 2013, and problems with claims management were immediately evident.

In addition to having to find a new third-party administrator of the CCO to review and pay medical claims, the replacement of Cigna also required the parties to find a new Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) network in California – since Cigna refused to continue supplying the network if it would not be allowed to retain the contract to administer claims processing at the CCO. Since it became necessary to replace the Cigna network, the Union and the PMA Trustees directed the Welfare Plan Consultant (Milliman) to conduct a search for a new PPO network for California enrollees. After eliminating several companies due to mandatory pre-authorizations and less than adequate access to providers and facilities, it was agreed to select Blue Shield’s PPO network in California.

This company was selected because they had the largest network coverage for providers and facilities in the areas where members reside. Blue Shield is only providing a network of providers and facilities who agree to charge certain negotiated fees. These fees are negotiated and set in a process that is wholly independent of the Union and PMA. The ILWU/PMA Indemnity Plan remains a fully independent, non-profit organization run for the benefit of ILWU members and pensioners, and is not controlled by Blue Shield or any other private insurance company. Today’s problems of CCO management (review and payment of claims) is a problem associated with Zenith-American Solutions and not the Blue Shield of California PPO network.

At the Caucus, the Coast Committee and delegates had lengthy discussions about how to solve the now intolerable problem with PMA’s pick, Zenith. See the cover story about the April 9 protest outside of PMA headquarters in San Francisco.

New technology

The Clerk’s Technology Committee and Longshore Technology Committees made presentations that included updates on information technologies, remote off-dock control centers, and web portals that allow employers to control information flows in ways that undermine job security for all dock workers – not just Clerks. The Committee concluded their presentation by summarizing the challenges – and offering solutions for future consideration and action.

The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) is organizing a conference at the end of April on automation and new technologies in Sydney, Australia. Many ILWU officers and representatives from Longshore Division locals will attend the conference. The Dispatcher will have a full report in the next issue.

International solidarity Vice President Ray Familathe delivered the international relations report and introduced speakers General Secretary Joe Fleetwood of the Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) and Assistant Branch Secretary Will Tracey from the Western Australia Branch of Maritime Union of Australia (MUAWA) which recently signed a solidarity agreement with ILWU Local 23.

“There’s a war on militant dock workers around the world by employers,” said Fleetwood. “All of us are under attack; the ILA and ILWU, the MUA and MUNZ, European and Hong Kong dockers. Why? Because of the good terms and conditions we work under, and because we aren’t afraid to fight.”

MUA-WA Asst. Branch Secretary Will Tracey discussed efforts by the MUA and other Australian labor unions to secure good paying jobs for Australian workers in the country’s mining and mineral development projects. He explained how companies are circumventing Australia’s visa system to undermine wages and working conditions in the country.

He pledged to support ILWU struggles and closed by saying: “We have a slogan in the MUA that is very similar to yours,” he said, pointing to his shirt that read, “Touch one, touch all!”

International Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe gave an update on the ITF meetings in London he attended immediately before arriving at the Caucus in San Francisco in order to spread the word about the grain handlers lockout in Vancouver, WA to the 4.5 million

ITF affiliated-transport workers around the world. The ITF sent out an e-mail bulletin to their affiliates about the lockout that generated 6,000 letters of protest to Mitsui within 24 hours from around the world.

Familathe also reported on a recent trip to Peru where he chaired a meeting of the ITF’s Latin American Dockers Section meeting. He said that the privatization of Latin American ports is stripping the rights of dock workers throughout the region and driving down wages and working conditions.

The Caucus passed a resolution standing in solidarity with ITF-affiliated dock workers in El Salvador, STIPES, who are struggling against a proposed privatization scheme that would threaten their right to exist as a union.

Solidarity with Hong Kong Dockers

International President Bob McEllrath introduced a motion for the Longshore Division to donate $20,000 to support the Hong Kong dock workers who have been on strike for several weeks at the world’s third busiest port. The resolution passed unanimously.

The dockers are striking for fair wages, better working conditions and the right to form a union. They currently earn about $90 for a double shift which is less then they earned in 1997. Crane operators work 12-hour shifts during which they aren’t able to leave their cranes, even to use the bathroom. President McEllrath and Vice President Familathe met with the Hong Kong dockers on a recent trip to China.

The ITF has had a 4-year campaign to pressure the terminal operator, Hong Kong International Terminals (HIT), to recognize the collective bargaining rights of the dockers. HIT is a subsidiary of Hutchison Port Holdings Trust, which is part of Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. That company is owned by billionaire Li Ka-shing – one of the richest men in the world.

Honors for George Cobbs

Caucus delegates gave special recognition to ILWU Local 10 pensioner George Cobbs for his work in establishing the ILWU’s Alcohol, Drug and Rehab (ADRP) program, noting that he has been instrumental in making the program a success.

“The ADRP program has saved the lives of a lot of people,” said Local 63 President Mike Podue. “From the families that you brought back together, there are not enough words of gratitude and ways to express what you have done for this union.”

Other resolutions passed by the Caucus included $100,000 allocated for the James R. Herman Memorial Advisory Committee that will oversee the design, creation and maintenance of a memorial for the former ILWU International President who succeeded Harry Bridges, serving from 1977 to 1991. San Francisco’s Pier 27 cruise ship terminal will be named in Herman’s honor.

Funding of $60,000 in each of the next two years was approved for the Labor Archive of Washington State University which has become an invaluable resource for the preserving labor history. Approval for up to $100,000 a year was approved for after-school activities at the Harry Bridges Span School in Wilmington, CA. Delegates also approved a resolution sponsored by Bay Area locals allocating $7,500 for events related to the 150th Anniversary of the Port of San Francisco.

Battling blood cancers

Local 13 delegate Dan Imbagliazzo introduced guest speaker Michael Guglielmo, who is the donor recruitment coordinator for DKMS, a non-profit organization dedicated to expanding the nation’s base of blood marrow donors. The effort will save the lives of those stricken with blood cancers, including leukemia. Guglielmo took up the cause when his own son, Giovanni, struggled five years with the disease that finally took his life in April of 2012. Guglielmo will be working with Imbagliazzo and ILWU locals to organize a Coast-wide registration drive for potential blood marrow donors. More information about DKMS can be found at