Leadership Education and Development Institute (LEAD VIII) Sacramento, CA May 3-8, 2020

ILWU - Tue, 02/18/2020 - 12:23

The ILWU will be holding a Leadership Education and Development Institute (LEAD VIII) in Sacramento, CA May 3-8, 2020.
The theme of this year’s training will be: Educating Tomorrow’s Leaders Today.
“Our union must continually educate new leaders in order to survive and grow. LEAD helps cultivate critical skills for activists and helps nurture a strong rank and file.  Everyone has a role to play in our union and leadership training helps pave avenues for action on all levels,” commented ILWU Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris. “Most of the leaders in this union—myself included—have attended LEAD.  I value the education I received at the conference when I attended in 2010 and hope others will be inspired and engaged from this important program.  Education is a critical tool for our union’s future.”

Topics at the training will include:

  • Increasing strength and unity through member participation;
  • Building union power in times of economic and political uncertainty;
  • Improving communication—both within the union and with the general public;
  • How to run effective union meetings;
  • Inspiring young worker involvement;
  • Internal and External Organizing campaigns;
  • Lessons from the ILWU’s history, its diverse membership and divisions.

Instructors include active and retired ILWU members, labor activists, and staff from the International and university labor centers.

Local unions and affiliates may nominate participants, who are each required to fill out an application and hotel reservation form. Priority consideration will be given to new officers and rank and file activists who have not yet participated in any previous LEAD programs. For reasons of space and diversity, each affiliate should expect to send no more than two participants, but a waiting list will be taken in case of cancellations or non-participation by some locals.

The LEAD budget will cover participants’ hotel stay, breakfast, lunch, training materials, facilities, and instructors. Participants will be housed together in double rooms but may upgrade to a single room at their own expense. Any reimbursement for expenses such as lost wages, or travel will have to be covered by the participant or his or her local or IBU region, or by area fundraising activities.

In cases where financial hardship is an obstacle to participation, a request for assistance should be submitted to the International along with a written statement about the circumstances involved and the amount of assistance requested.

Educational Services Director Robin Walker is also available to help answer questions.

Interested members should apply online here.

Please submit applications no later than 5pm, March 27, 2020.

Categories: Unions

We are the ILWU: ILWU Local 5, Portland, OR

ILWU - Fri, 01/31/2020 - 10:55

 ILWU Local 5 was chartered on August 10, 2000, after a two-year organizing and contract campaign by 400 workers at Powell’s Books in Portland. The organizing effort began in 1998 when the company restructured jobs and significantly reduced raises for workers. Powell’s workers filed for a union election on March 12, 1999.  On April 22, they made history by voting to join the union and becoming the nation’s largest union bookstore.

Contract negotiations between the workers and company were contentious. Between October 1999 and May 2000, the union filed 10 Unfair Labor Practices against Powell’s for violating labor laws – including retaliation against union supporters.  Workers responded by organizing eleven strikes.

After 53 bargaining sessions held over ten months, workers announced they had reached a tentative agreement for a fair contract on August 1, 2001, winning significant improvements including an 18 percent raise over three years.

Local 5 members at Powell’s perform a wide-range of tasks.

“Powell’s is a pretty big company with multiple storefronts and every type of job from booksellers and people who do software programming to driving trucks and buying new and used books,” said Local 5 President Ryan Van Winkle. There’s a department that just builds fixtures and shelving. There’s a whole woodshop at our warehouse, and all of these workers are members of Local 5,” he said.

In recent years, Local 5 has expanded to help workers in other shops.

“In addition to workers at Powell’s books, we represent food service workers at Evergreen State College and staff at the Oregon Historical Society,” Van Winkle said. “We’re also helping veterinary technicians organize to join the union and have several other campaigns in the works.”

Participation is encouraged

Local 5 encourages members to actively participate. They do this with member-to-member, two-way conversations on the job, and providing a warm, welcoming space at a wide-range of social and political events. The Local 5 office becomes a site for social events that bring together members from different shops.

“The Local 5 office is located near the Powell’s Burnside store, making it convenient for that large group of workers to easily meet.  The office space is used for game nights, an annual craft bazaar where Local 5 members sell artwork, jewelry, and other craft projects, and a monthly display of artwork by Local 5 members.

“The monthly board-game night enables workers from different shops to meet and interact,” said Van Winkle. “We organize other activities like taking members caving, holding regular beach clean-ups, and other events organized by members.”  Trips have included everything from hikes in the woods to visiting a local shooting range.

The Local also has an “open bargaining” policy that encourages members to observe negotiations whenever the union meets with employers. This policy dates from the first Powell’s contract campaign, twenty years ago.

“We see ourselves as the antithesis of a service-model union,” says Van Winkle, referring to unions that are run by professional staff who operate without control and participation of rank-and-file members.

“All the work done around here is member-driven,” Van Winkle says. “Our decisions and how we operate begin and end with the membership.” He says the structure behind their bottom-up ethic begins with a strong Stewards Council that’s always been focused on membership involvement – an approach that has proven successful for the past two decades.


Local 5 Member profiles

Beth Woodson, Veterinary Technician

“I’ve been at Columbia River Veterinary Specialists for six years. This is my 25th year in the veterinary industry and I’ve been a licensed technician for 19 years – ten of them as a veterinary technician specialist. Most of my career has been in emergency and critical care, plus some anesthesia as well. I’m currently the overnight lead for the emergency and critical care departments. Forming a union had been talked about on and off throughout the years. More so after we saw several of our favorite practices sold to large corporations. I didn’t feel there was a place for it when we were privately owned, but when we went through our first acquisition, it was a topic of conversation. We thought we could survive the takeover because it seemed like there was strong internal support from our management and our benefits. While they weren’t comparable to some private practice benefits, they weren’t as bad as they are now. When PetVet acquired us, I watched people cry over their health care choices. They were sitting in front of their computer with their head in their hands crying because they were going to have to choose to go without health care. That motivated me to get in contact with people and get in touch with ILWU Organizer Ryan Takas. I called him on my way home from work and set up a time to meet with him.

“The patients will always be the top priority for workers like us. Corporate medicine has taken away from that focus, and I want to bring it back. My goal is to get back to the medicine, get back to the teaching, and making sure everyone is as well-trained as possible.

“Working conditions in our profession have seen a huge drop in recent years. At the last privately-owned practice where I worked, we had quarterly profit sharing. We had meaningful raises. I was able to buy a house, but now I’m struggling. I’ve had to refinance my house. I’ve had to take on roommates and pick up extra shifts and work a lot of overtime just to make ends meet. I feel like I’m a little too far into my career to be this desperate.

“The support from our team of doctors has been outstanding. They proudly wear our buttons and encourage us. They’ve written letters of support and gone above and beyond. Those things highlight the strength of our hospital and employees.”

Annie Presler, Veterinary Technician

“I started working in the veterinary industry in 2000 as a kennel attendant—sweeping, mopping floors, and cleaning kennels. In 2010 I decided to go back to college and become a Veterinary Technician and got my license in 2012. I started at Columbia River Veterinary Specialists in 2017 and have been there since.

“The way I describe what a veterinary technician does is a registered nurse for animals. We are anesthesiologists, nurses, groomers, doctor’s assistants, pharmacists. We do a lot of different things. There are so many different facets of veterinary medicine that it’s hard to define. In Washington State and Oregon, you have to go to an accredited school—either a brick-and-mortar school or an online school. Then you receive your Associate of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology, but have to pass an exam to get your license. After that, you have to complete continuing education to keep your license.

“I love seeing patients that have been in the hospital for weeks walk out the door on their own. I like being able to answer questions for clients and give them advice, and of course, I like puppies and kittens. The hard part is the daily struggle of seeing pets die every day when I’m at work. I can’t think of a day when I haven’t had a pet euthanized. There’s a very real rough side to veterinary medicine, and it really affects me and the people I work with, sometimes in really stressful ways.”


Mary Gregory, Veterinary Technician

“I started working for Columbia River Veterinary Specialists in 2013 when we were owned by a private group of veterinarians. I’ve seen three different ownerships since I’ve been with the company. My background is in biology. I have my bachelor’s through Portland State and worked with the Forest Service in the wildlife department. I’ve always really enjoyed animals and wildlife. I always had it in the back of my mind that if I had the opportunity to get involved in the veterinary industry, I would give it a chance.  I didn’t know how I could fit-in until I found my current job as an instrument technician. I also do imaging with our Computed Tomography (CT). I’m responsible for maintaining the sterility of all of our equipment and instruments, managing the flow of our surgical suites, the cleaning process, the surgery and assisting the imaging of patients and training new hires in instruments and cross-training others who want to help out on that side of the hospital. We service the entire hospital, all specialties, the Emergency Room and Intensive Care Unit.


“Staffing is an issue. We consistently have turnover. We are open 24-7 and it’s a challenge to get enough coverage so all the instruments and equipment are sterilized and ready to go. We’ve had several vacancies where people have come into the position, and go elsewhere after saying there’s too much work for the pay. Just retaining good quality people is difficult because they aren’t being paid what they deserve.”


Lisa Zacks, Veterinary Technician, CRVS

“I’ve been in the industry for about 20 years and was always interested in veterinary medicine but thought the science was overwhelming. When I went to massage school, I realized that I was learning a lot of the sciences, so I went into veterinary medicine and worked at a shelter in San Francisco during my 2-years of school. After graduating I went into orthopedic veterinary medicine because my own dog needed veterinary care. I volunteered to work with the surgeon who did the surgery and he hired me. I have now done several specialties; orthopedics, internal medicine, oncology, ophthalmology, and I’m currently working as an ER technician.

I enjoy the mental and physical stimulation of the job and constant work. We can do so many different things. It’s not like human medicine. We are everywhere. We do radiology. We do anesthesia. We are neonatal and geriatric. We’re not confined to one department. Everything is open for us to do.

“Everything is not always as straightforward as it seems. The pets can’t tell us what’s happening, so sometimes they might present for one thing until we find an underlying problem

“The harder part of the job can be the financial aspect—that clients can’t afford the treatment or the medication. Sometimes there are really sad cases we see over and over again—meaning they aren’t going to get better, and we are just maintaining them until the family can come to terms with what’s going on with their pet. The time constraints we have for each patient, and the number of patients waiting for help can be overwhelming. Our wages have dropped at least five percent since this latest company took us over because our hours have been reduced. I don’t have a savings account anymore. I used to be able to save money.”



Brianna Bonham, Chief Steward,
Powell’s Books, Cedar Hill

“I’d never worked a union job before Powell’s. When I get hired, there was a union orientation during our onboarding week. I thought it was really interesting. I paid attention to what was going on at Local 5 for the first year or so, but didn’t get involved until we started bargaining in 2018. I

started attending all of the negotiations and realized how important it is to show up for our voices to be heard. Not a lot of people from my specific location were going,\ so I wanted to make sure that our location had a voice.

“As a steward, I do a lot of different things. On the shop floor, a lot of it is answering questions. I answer a lot of time-keeping questions and benefits questions. I also represent workers during investigations to make sure their rights are protected. If the process ends with discipline or a termination, it sometimes means working on grievances.

“During our 2018 bargaining, the Powell’s bargaining committee, co-led by Myka Dubay and Ryan Takas, pitched the idea of making the Powell’s contract gender-neutral so that every worker would feel represented. The company took really well to it and went further by implementing it in their own policies and practices. It was an important step for the Local to take because every single worker, regardless of their gender identity, is welcomed at Local 5. Myka and Andy Anderson then led the effort to amend the Local 5 constitution to make it gender-neutral and then at the ILWU Convention in Portland, delegates passed a resolution to amend International’s constitution to be gender-neutral and at meetings, to include the greeting, ’fellow workers,’ and not just ‘brothers and sisters.’

“I recently did an orientation for some new workers who were hired for the holidays. One of the workers uses gender-neutral “they/them” pronouns, and they said they’ve never worked at a job where they feel so immediately welcomed and didn’t have to worry about correcting managers or telling co-workers. Local 5 is great about making sure every worker feels welcomed and has a voice.

Joey Beach,
Steward, Oregon Historical Society Steward

“I’ve been at the Oregon Historical Society (OHS) for about 12 years. I work at Visitor Services; we’re the people who sell you tickets and memberships, answer your questions and give you directions. The OHS is a museum, a research library with librarians and archivists, a museum store, and we publish a scholarly quarterly publication. We also have an education department that does school tours. Some of the staff fabricate exhibits. We have curators and people in the collections department who manage artifacts. We have a large warehouse where most of the people in our bargaining unit work. We have union members in almost every department except finance.


“At the museum, we have a lot of permanent exhibits – including one called Experience Oregon that covers the chronological and thematic history of different regions in the state, which our main exhibit. We also have one called Oregon Voices, which picks up with more contemporary Oregon history, and we have one called History Hub, which is geared towards children and families.


We had our own little union since 1990, called the Oregon Historical Society Employee Association. It was just about 30 of us in the bargaining unit. I was the President at the time, and in 2017 we decided it was time to affiliate with a larger union so we could have some support for better organization and better negotiations. Not that it had been going badly, but it felt like it was time. I reached out to Local 5 and a couple of other unions at the time. Local 5 was the most responsive and the most excited about talking to us. The other unions didn’t seem interested. Maybe they thought we weren’t big enough, and we weren’t going to do anything to benefit them. Local 5 didn’t see it that way.  


Jeffrey Hayes,
Oregon Historical Society and Local 5 Trustee

“I’ve worked at the Oregon Historical Society in some capacity for almost seven years, and my job as an archivist started in 2014. Anytime people donate materials to the Research Library – family papers, photographs, and things like that – I’m in charge of logging that donation. I do some work in organizing those materials because sometimes people just fill a box with stuff and bring it in, which isn’t that useful to researchers. I have to put it in an acid-free folder, give the collection and title with a catalog entry so people can find it online.


“The research library has a lot of materials; papers, letters, people’s diaries, and organizational records. We have a lot photographs and films, although not as well represented, but we are trying to work on that. We have oral histories – which are interviews with people. It’s important because history is made from these primary documents – it doesn’t start as a textbook – it starts by looking at what was created at the time by people. We offer access to that. We mostly have materials related to Oregon, of course, but to some extent, the Pacific Northwest in general.


“I was the first person to get a Local 5 Affiliate Card in October or November of 2017. Local 5 assisted us with negotiations in 2018, which was a huge help. In August of 2018, we voted to become full members of Local 5. We managed to get the improvements we did because of Local 5.”

Ryan Van Winkle,
President ILWU Local 5

“I started working for Powell’s Books at the Burnside location in the parking garage in July of 1999. That was about a month after workers voted to form a union. Because Local 5 has open bargaining, with members allowed to observe the bargaining process, I started going to these bargaining sessions. Heads of the company were there – the people who run the company – with their lawyer, so I was able to see how they treated us and our relatively meager requests for more than minimum wage. That experience galvanized me, and I became very involved – what I would now call a participatory member.

“As Local 5’s elected President, I continue to work in the warehouse and process books. We have a very large warehouse that ships out books to all the various locations.

“In high school, I worked at a grocery store that was represented by a large union in this area, and I think it affected the way I see the labor movement and the direction it needs to go. During my time there, I never talked to anyone who represented the union. Every nine-months, I would get a bill from the union saying that I hadn’t paid all my dues, but that was the only interaction I had with them. Or one time I got a notice telling me that we would be on strike, something I didn’t know anything about. It was a feeling disengagement. My voice was unimportant and didn’t matter. I don’t want anyone to feel that way who’s a part of Local 5. I think we go out of our way to try to help people become a part of the process and get engaged.

“We also bargain all of our contracts with members. Every single one of our bargaining teams is made up of members. They’re the ones who sit across the table from the company. They’re the ones who craft the proposals. We don’t do it with lawyers. We don’t have our union rep do it. We have someone there to help, guide and advise, but the contract is negotiated by the members who are going to be working under it.”





Categories: Unions

Secretary-Treasurers Report

ILWU - Fri, 01/31/2020 - 09:19

ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris

The need for increased ILWU Political Action

It is no secret that working families have much at stake in the 2020 U.S. Federal elections. On November 3rd, our nation will elect a President, 35 Senators, and 435 members of the House Representatives. If there was ever a time for organized labor and the working class in this country to unite in purpose to change the balance of power in Washington, D.C., that time is now.

The GOP’s war on the working class

It is clear to me that the GOP’s continued war on labor and working families has only accelerated since President Trump was elected in 2016.

We have watched the promotion of national right to work legislation, the rollback of favorable labor NLRB precedent, a massive tax cut for corporations and the super-rich, anti-labor conservative cabinet appointments, repeal of longstanding environmental protections, flawed trade policies, flawed national security policies, climate change denial, and rigid opposition to health care for all.

The GOP did not gain their dominant position in the federal government by accident. Starting in the 1990’s they concentrated their efforts at the state level, focusing on governorships and state legislatures. They have utilized right-wing dark-money donors like the Koch brothers to buy elections at every level of government. They especially targeted elections at the end of each decade when the winners of those elections draw lines for congressional and state legislative districts for the following decade. According to a Politico article from 2/10/18 entitled “The Democrat’s’ secret weapon to take back statehouses,” the results of this strategy of partisan gerrymandering has been that almost 1,000 state legislative seats have been lost by the Democratic party since 2008.

This fact illustrates the dramatic need for stronger political action by organized labor and the working class. We must not continue to allow the 1% and their GOP puppets to prosper by exploiting the majority of Americans. We may not have the financial resources of the Koch brothers, but we have something better– we are the majority. If we increase voter registration among the working class and aggressively engage in this year’s election, we can win the political changes that will let us collectively prosper and better our society.

Federal Judge appointments

Another major GOP strategy that must be stopped is the rightwing politicization of the appointment of federal judges. According to a Washington Post article dated 12/21/19:

After three years in office, President Trump has remade the federal judiciary, ensuring a conservative tilt for decades and cementing his legacy no matter the outcome of November’s election.

Trump nominees make up 1 in 4 U.S. circuit court judges. Two of his picks sit on the Supreme Court. And this past week, as the House voted to impeach the president, the Republican-led Senate confirmed an additional 13 district court judges. In total, Trump has installed 187 judges to the federal bench.

Trumps appointments have flipped three circuit courts to majority GOP-appointed judges, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York. The President has also selected younger conservatives for these lifetime appointments, ensuring his impact is felt for many years.

The executor of this aggressive push is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who is singularly focused on reshaping the federal judiciary, twice ramming through Senate rule changes to speed up confirmations over Democrat’s objections.

McConnell’s mantra is, ‘leave no vacancy behind,’ and with a 53-47 Senate majority, he has been able to fill openings at breakneck speed.

The future impact that these conservative federal judiciary appointments will have on our nation remains unclear, but in my opinion they are antithetical to significant future improvements for American workers. They have only occurred to protect the interests of the 1 percent, huge corporations, and the military industrial complex. As such, we must see it for what it is and collectively engage and dedicate significant time, energy, and resources to regain control of the United States Senate.

Statement of Policy on Political Action

The ILWU Political Action Fund (PAF) was established by delegates to the ILWU’S 24th Biennial International Convention in 1981. It was created for voluntary contributions by the membership to “be used for political education, voter registration, legislative activities, contributions to candidates for public office, and other such purposes consistent with the goals of the International.”

The ILWU’s Political Action Fund exists to support elected officials who support policies and legislation that advance the interests of the ILWU and the working class.

The International Executive Board unanimously adopted a Statement of Policy on Political Action at the December 11, 2019 IEB meeting. I have included it below for your review and consideration:

Political Action is the organized effort of working people to make our voices heard by elected officials. This is the pathway for winning government policies and programs which benefit organized labor and all working Americans. The ILWU Political Action Fund (PAF) exists to support elected officials who champion legislation and policies that advance the political aims of the working class and ILWU. 

The ILWU engages in independent political action as part of our union’s aggressive struggle to win better conditions for members. ILWU political action educates members about political issues and mobilizes them to take action. We promote political solutions for the problems that union members face and utilize the political arena to defend ourselves against attacks launched by anti-labor politicians.

The ILWU’s victories at the bargaining table can be easily undermined by hostile actions from local, state and federal governments. In addition, the ILWU and working people often face issues outside of bargaining. Labor laws, tax laws, laws promoting or impeding automation, and changes to our nation’s health care and social security systems affect the lives of ILWU members. This is why it is absolutely essential that for the ILWU to engage in the political process so our voices are heard.

As we engage our employers in the workplace, they often attack us on a second front, using their massive financial resources to buy scores of lobbyists and give millions in political contributions to anti-labor politicians.

Employers seek laws that boost their profits, usually at our expense. We will never match corporations in dollar-for-dollar political spending. However, we can give our allies the support they need to win against waves of dark money. This is why we must raise as much money as we can to compete with employers in this fight at the ballot box, in every state capitol, and in Washington, DC. It is the only way we can protect the gains made at the bargaining table. We must be involved in the political process. 

We are currently raising PAF money through the ILWU website, the Dispatcher, and via solicitation letters to members of the ILWU, and ILWU Credit Unions. These methods have worked to bring member contributions into the PAF, but now we must do more.  The ILWU Executive Board believes a new program of member-to-member solicitations is necessary to raise more money for political action.

PAF Chair

The ILWU Executive Board encourages each local to appoint a PAF Chair who is responsible for soliciting voluntary PAF contributions from local union members.

The PAF Chair is authorized to receive updates from the ILWU Washington office on issues of importance to ILWU members, and help educate and mobilize ILWU members to participate in the ILWU political process.  They are authorized to ask for voluntary contributions in one-on-one meetings with members of the ILWU.

The PAF Chair can appoint a Committee of no less than 3 members to assist with the responsibilities.  In addition to raising funds for the PAF and distributing educational materials to members, the Chair is encouraged to develop a program to register members to vote and to recruit volunteers for Congressional, state and local races.

The PAF Chair is also responsible for:

  • Developing a plan for collecting member e-mail addresses to assist the International in soliciting PAF funds.
  • Sending solicitation communications inexpensively and efficiently via e-mail.

For example, ILWU leadership could work with the Legislative and Communications Department to develop content and send mass/bulk e-mail campaigns to solicit donations from members.  Very importantly, the email list could be used to ask members and their families to write to Congress for critical upcoming votes and to help working families. 

Social Media

The International Executive Board authorizes the officers to explore the creation of an ILWU Political Action page on social media.  The platform would be limited to ILWU members, families and pensioners to discuss political and legislative issues facing the union and all working people.  The Social media page would also be used by the International to solicit contributions to the ILWU Political Action Fund.

It is absolutely imperative that we raise our Union’s profile when it comes to Political Action. The stakes are just too high in 2020. Your support of the ILWU Political Action Fund is an investment in the protection of the ILWU and in your future. I strongly encourage every member of this Union – active and retired – to make voluntary contributions to the ILWU Political Action Fund in amounts that you can afford.

As Harry Bridges once said, “There is a weapon we can fight with. That is the weapon of political action.” Let’s collectively listen to these wise words and put them into practice.



Categories: Unions

Organizing lessons from the Anchor Brewing campaign

ILWU - Thu, 01/30/2020 - 15:23

Last month’s Dispatcher reported that Anchor workers voted overwhelmingly to ratify their first union contract on December 20. With their victory secure, workers at the first craft brewery in America can share some of the factors behind their organizing victory.

  • They were patient
    Early union supporters took their time and resisted the urge to “go public” before securing support from a strong majority of their co-workers. The process was slow, systematic and effective. They talked with every worker. Conversations were the key to building strong support. That meant listening to what people were thinking and concerned about – not lecturing or preaching about the union.
  • They built a strong committee
    The strong union committee inside Anchor didn’t just happen, it was built on a foundation of conversations. Those talks resulted in identifying supporters and encouraging them to join the committee.
  • New leaders were encouraged
    The conversations helped identify natural leaders who had followers. Finding and encouraging these respected workers made the organizing committee strong and representative.
  • Support was tested and verified
    Supporters were asked to show their support in small but important ways – such as coming to a meeting, signing a petition, wearing a button or displaying a poster at a bar.
  • Public support was organized
    Besides building support inside the plant, workers realized they also needed friends and leverage on the outside. They targeted customers and bartenders at local bars where Anchor products were served.
  • Political support was enlisted
    Outreach to local elected officials began early in the campaign. County Supervisor Shamann Walton and other officials encouraged Anchor management to be respectful of workers and the union.
  • They got help from allies
    The public outreach campaign required lots of volunteers who were invited to help from the ILWU, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, San Francisco Labor Council and Democratic Socialists of America which played an essential role before and during the campaign.
  • They contacted co-workers abroad
    Anchor is owned by Sapporo, with union workers at plants in Japan and Canada. The Anchor committee communicated with leaders in those unions to secure support and solidarity.
Categories: Unions

Newest ILWU members secure a first contract

ILWU - Thu, 01/30/2020 - 15:16

Signing the first contract took place on January 16 at ILWU International headquarters by (L-R) ILWU (Mainland) Vice President Bobby Olvera, Jr., Local 6 Secretary- Treasurer Jose Nunez and Pasha senior Vice President Michael Caswell

A team of auto-processors at San Francisco’s Pier 80 finally got their ILWU contract in January with Pasha Automotive after a lengthy three-year effort.

Good contract with big raises

Their contract that was signed on January 16th included significant raises, good health benefits and an excellent savings plan. The Pasha Terminal Services employees at Pier 80 will receive raises with back pay from June 2019. Wages for Auto-processors are now $20.25 and will be $28.00 at the end of the contract, with Leads now making $21.25 and ending at $34.50. Workers are also guaranteed 40 hours of work each week, reimbursement for tuition and books needed for a GED or college classes. There’s also a good severance package in case the facility closes.

“These workers were determined to get the best possible agreement and they succeeded,” said ILWU Vice President (Mainland) Bobby Olvera, Jr., who negotiated the contract and signed it with Local 6 Secretary- Treasurer Jose Nuñez. ILWU Lead Organizer Agustin Ramirez provided key support.

“We look forward to welcoming these new members into the Local 6 family,” said Nuñez.

Handling valuable Teslas

The auto-processors are responsible for handling thousands of new Tesla automobiles being manufactured at the company’s plant in Fremont,

The vehicles are transported to Pier 80 on car-hauling trucks, where the new ILWU members inspect, prepare and stage the hi-tech vehicles. Workers use hand-held computers to document and track the new autos – including 4,200 that were processed in mid-January. After being inspected, the cars are staged for loading onto vessels by Local 10 longshore workers, Local 34 Clerks and Local 91 Walking Bosses. The high-value vehicles are shipped to distant markets in Asia and beyond.

Long and winding road

The effort to secure a good contract began back in 2016, when Pasha approached the ILWU about the company’s interest in using Pier 80 to export autos on the company’s “ro-ro’s” vessels – which allow cars to roll-on and roll-off.

Despite numerous early inquiries from the ILWU about union representation for the auto-processors, Pasha went ahead and made a side deal with Teamster union officials that violated the rights of workers who are entitled by law to choose which union they prefer. Workers finally got that chance in May of 2019, when they voted for ILWU representation.

Jameca Kemp, the highest seniority auto processor at Pier 80, has been employed by Pasha for over 3 years, and has seen the process slowly wind its way toward a positive outcome in January. “We’re happy with the contract and look forward to being part of the ILWU,” she said


Categories: Unions

We Are the ILWU: Mainland Organizing Department

ILWU - Thu, 01/30/2020 - 12:14

Welcome to the ILWU: Auto-processors at San Francisco’s Pier 80 just won their first ILWU contract. This photo shows dayshift workers (L-R) Kee Sgengsourichanh, Jameca Kemp, Boris Garcia and Henry Ormeno. When the contract was signed was signed on January 16th, the team was tracking and preparing 4,200 Tesla automobiles for export to Asia and beyond.

Organizing has been essential to the ILWU’s success since the founding of our union. It began with the militancy of west coast longshoremen, then inspired a march inland to organize warehouse and industrial workers. Across the Pacific, in Hawaii, the spark of organizing struck a chord with plantation workers.

These and other efforts were part of a movement that allowed workers to rise through labor unions during the 20th Century. Unions made it possible for workers to improve working and living conditions, secure new rights and power on the job, and achieve greater political power for the entire working class. Our commitment to building a progressive, democratic, and inclusive union has been part of that organizing legacy.

This tradition has been reaffirmed by rank-and-file delegates at our International Conventions who frequently ask us to honor the motto: “An Injury to One is An Injury to All.” These words apply to helping more than just those within our union. Living true to these words obligates us to extend our hands to fellow workers who are unorganized, because we are all members of the working class, and we can only make meaningful progress by working together. We must continue to organize – or this union and everything won by generations who sacrificed before us – will die. We are the ILWU’s Mainland Organizing Department. Our aim is to strengthen and expand the ILWU and advance a program that promotes working-class solidarity.

Who we are

Our Mainland Organizing Department consists of four regions, each staffed with a Lead Organizer: Southern California (Carlos Cardon), Northern California (Agustin Ramirez), Oregon Area (Ryan Takas) Puget Sound/Alaska (Jon Brier). Researcher Bridget Wack works in the San Francisco headquarters.

The Organizing Department Director is Ryan Dowling, who reports directly to ILWU Vice President (Mainland) Bobby Olvera, Jr. Our efforts are further supported by other ILWU staff, including Communications (Craig Merrilees & Roy SanFilippo) and Education (Robin Walker and Russ Bargmann). Legal advice and support is provided by attorneys at the Leonard Carder law firm.

At the elected helm of the department is the ILWU’s National Organizing Committee (NOC), made up of the Titled Officers, and the International Organizing Committee, a subcommittee of the International Executive Board.

Most importantly, the Organizing Department is financially supported by ILWU members and fueled by brave and selfless workers who give their time to organize.

What we do

Night-shift: Pasha auto-processors on the night-shift include (L-R) Miguel Rivera, Paul Wesley Adams and Kieren Broussard. The new contract provides minimum raises of 38% plus good benefits for the Pier 80 workers who are now members of Local 6.

The Organizing Department is responsible for bringing new workers into our union. Sometimes workers are already self-organized within their workplace and reach out to join the ILWU. Other times we are contacted by individuals, friends or family members. The Department investigates these leads, conducts targeted research, and meets with workers to gauge what kind of leverage may exist with an employer (often referred to as the “hammer”), We also assess the level of interest within the workforce (known as “heat”). Assessing both the “hammer” and “heat” are crucial, along with information provided in meetings with workers about the behavior of their employer and attitude of co-workers.

Sometimes those leads turn into organizing drives, while other leads lack sufficient interest within the workforce. Sometimes workers would be better served by affiliating with a different union that has clear jurisdiction. Cases that lead to an active organizing drive see the Organizing Department working hard to ensure that workers have the best chance of securing their first contract.

After contract ratification, the new workers join an ILWU Local, and the Organizing Department returns to helping a new group of workers.

Besides helping new workers join the union, the Organizing Department also helps locals and Divisions when they come under attack or need assistance. Each local and Division is autonomous and decides when and how they interact with the Organizing Department.

One common form of support is training for worker activists and leaders. Recently, the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU) requested training to help members understand how to identify potential groups of workers nearby who may be interested in organizing. A day-long training was organized to provide IBU officers and activists with the tools they needed for this purpose.

In some cases, the threat to a Local or Division is urgent, and requires our full and immediate assistance. This was the case when Local 30 members in Boron, CA were locked-out by the global mining corporation, Rio Tinto in 2010. It became an all-hands-on-deck moment for the ILWU, with all Organizing Department and other staff assigned to help Local 30 by deploying boots on the ground, offering strategy and tactical advice, media outreach, research and training. The mobilization of these resources allowed Local 30 and the ILWU to emerge victorious after the 100-day lockout.

We are fighting

While organizing is critical to our union’s survival, it requires lots of time and resources. Labor laws are stacked against workers – even more so with the current anti-union Trump administration. Appointees to the U.S. Department of Labor and National Labor Relations Board are recruited from corporations and corporate law firms. Despite this hostile environment, the Organizing Department is successfully starting and sustaining campaigns that include:

  1. Animal hospitals.
  2. Logistics and supply chain.
  3. Other campaigns involving

hundreds of workers. We are continuing to help these workers organize and fight for their first contracts. Along the way, we have achieved small but meaningful victories. The struggles here – along with resulting victories and failures – have become woven into the tapestry that is the ILWU’s legacy of collective struggle. For CRVS, a marker of that success has been my experience watching new leaders take more responsibility for negotiations. I was initially the lead negotiator and main spokesperson at the bargaining table, but the team has grown immensely, allowing me to sit on the side as workers speak in their own voices and as equals with the company officials and lawyers. It’s inspiring to see workers build confidence, find their voice, and speak truth to power.

These workers have discovered the ILWU way. At SFVS, workers achieved their first strike at a veterinary hospital, then doubled-down to do it again. Director Ryan Dowling recounts one of his favorite moments:

“Last year, I watched workers at SFVS go out on their second strike to protest Unfair Labor Practices. This happened after the County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution calling out MARS – yes, the candy bar company who also owns VCA – as a poor employer. The strike also received some of our most favorable earned-media coverage, on ABC news.”

In addition to these public campaigns, there are also several other organizing drives underway where workers have not yet declared their decision to join the union – known as “walking on the boss,” but they will do so soon. We look forward to sharing more updates on these campaigns in future editions of The Dispatcher.

We are winning

Because of these collective efforts, we have seen several amazing victories for the newest members of the ILWU. Recently, workers at Pasha and Anchor Steam ratified their first contracts. They now enjoy the rights and benefits that were achieved through organizing and the collective bargaining process.

Both groups will join the ranks of Local 6, part of our effort to rebuild the Warehouse Division after decades of decline. Lead Organizer Agustin Ramirez, shepherded both groups throughout their organizing campaigns.

“It was incredible to see the amazing growth of the Anchor workers’ bargaining committee as negotiations progressed,” said Ramirez. “They held together, built solidarity inside and out, and made some smart moves that helped obtain their first contract.”

He feels the same way about progress made by Pasha workers. “Pasha workers at Pier 80 in San Francisco recently won their first contract and it was a game-changer that improved people’s lives with better wages, benefits and rights on the job.

The Employer was between a rock and a hard place. The workers were the rock and the Longshore Division was the hard place. The contract resulted from worker solidarity and Longshore power. That’s what can happen when we work together.”

Resisting political attacks

We’ve also been organizing internally to beat back employer and political attacks. The IBU has been under attack on multiple fronts – the most recent being the Janus decision by the Supreme Court that allows public employees to avoid paying dues while still benefiting from union representation.

The Janus case was planned and funded for several decades by antiunion legal and political groups.

The IBU tackled the Janus challenge with help from their officers, ILWU organizers, rank-and-file members, staff, and union-friendly elected representatives. The strategy called for conducting personal conversations with hundreds of members in which we did a lot of listening, and explained about how Janus was intended to weaken the union. As a result of this work, IBU members and other ILWU members in the public sector resoundingly rejected the temptation of “free riders,” choosing instead to continue supporting their union.

We also supported IBU efforts that prevented Alaska’s Governor from dismantling the state’s public ferry system. Failure in either campaign could have potentially decimated the IBU membership. Lead Organizer Jon Brier worked tirelessly with local activists and leaders on both campaigns, building a coalition of members, community activists, and politicians to ensure that the IBU would remain strong.

“It was inspiring to work with members who jumped into action against these political attacks,” said

Brier. “When the US Supreme Court declared open season on public sector unions, IBU and ILWU leaders and activists secured membership renewals from well over one thousand members in Puget Sound, Alaska and other regions.”

Brier said the challenges were equally daunting when Governor Dunleavy slashed funding for Alaska’s public ferry service and other critical state programs. The IBU launched a broad movement to save the Alaska Marine Highway System by holding rallies, providing testimony in the legislature, and mobilizing supporters across the state from Ketchikan to Anchorage to Dutch Harbor. They also helped organize what was reported to be the single largest public testimony turnout in state history.

“While both fights continue,” said Brier, “our internal organizing has strengthened the union to the point that they’ve built a stronger foundation for future campaigns.”


“Organize or Die” is not just a catch-phrase within the ILWU. It acknowledges that the only hope and future we have in this world is to join together so we can protect and improve conditions for ourselves and the working class. If we become complacent and content to rest on our past accomplishments, the future will slip away.

The Organizing Department looks forward to publishing updates in future issues of The Dispatcher that provide you with information about new and ongoing campaigns.

Finally, I’d like to take this moment to express my appreciation to the ILWU membership. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve as a Lead Organizer of the Oregon Area. It is such an incredible honor to help fellow workers raise their living and working standards by joining the ILWU. On a more personal note, I was one of those workers that this union welcomed into it’s ranks and provided an opportunity for me to improve my life with solidarity and collective bargaining.

At the beginning, we were minimum-wage retail workers. But with the support of ILWU members and the Organizing Department, we succeeded in organizing Powell’s Books in the year We secured our first contract and took that first step towards a fair and just workplace. Twenty years later, I remain grateful for that very tangible improvement in my life and the lives of my co-workers. Thank you.

In Solidarity,
Ryan Takas
Oregon Area Lead Organizer
ILWU Organizing Department

Categories: Unions

ILWU Executive Board holds final session with Presidential candidates

ILWU - Thu, 01/02/2020 - 15:39

Candid conversation: Former Vice President Joe Biden took questions and discussed his strategy to win in 2020.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and retired investor Tom Steyer became the 4th and 5th 2020 U.S. Presidential candidates to visit ILWU headquarters in San Francisco where both had separate free-ranging discussion with members of the International Executive Board. Candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren met with the Executive Board in August, as did Senator Kamala Harris who dropped-out of the race last month.

“We invited all candidates to talk with elected ILWU leaders about the issues that matter most to working families and union members,” said International President Willie Adams.

As he has done with all candidates who visited the ILWU, Adams greeted each with a warm welcome and provided a short introduction – then stepped back so they could deliver their own “stump speech” – 15 to 30 minutes of carefully crafted remarks that sounded fresh, passionate and personal – despite having delivered something similar at hundreds of events in recent months. Adams then opened the deck for questions from Board members and officers.

First up: Tom Steyer

Tom Steyer chose the morning time slot and received a warm round of applause after being introduced by President Adams, who explained the candidate’s unusual background as a hedge-fund CEO who became a billionaire before retiring and now uses his wealth to advocate for progressive causes, including climate change, fighting the Keystone oil pipeline opposed by Native Americans and ILWU members, and urging Congress to hold President Trump accountable for abusing the powers of his office for personal gain and obstruction of Congress. Steyer began by explaining why he chose to run for president.

“For the last ten years, I’ve been part of coalitions of ordinary Americans who are taking-on the unchecked power of corporations,” Steyer said. “The reason I’m running for president is simple: I think corporations have bought the government. Until we take the government back, we are not going to get any of the progressive policies that every single person in this room wants.” Steyer said he supports affordable healthcare, quality education, living wages, clean air and a fair vote. “These are rights that every American should have,” he said.

Funding progressive initiatives

Steyer says he has contributed over $130 million to fund progressive ballot initiatives in California, starting in 2010 with his role in defeating Prop 23, that would have rolled-back the state’s global warming law. He also contributed to initiatives that aimed to improve public transportation and increase taxes on the wealthy to fund public education.

Long-standing ties with unions

Steyer has made a point of working with unions, mobilizing his group called NextGen America, and with the California Labor Federation knocked on millions of doors to increase voting in the last two election cycles. “My first partner in everything I have done is organized labor,” he said. “My best partner in everything I have done has been organized labor and unions.”

War on workers

Steyer believes corporate American “has a strategy to break the power of unions in order to make it easier for them to keep all the money, which they’ve been doing for the past 40 years. The Republican strategy is to cut taxes for the wealthy, cut education, cut healthcare, attack organized labor, and allow as much pollution as they want.

Political outsider

Steyer said his position as a political outsider who came from the world of finance, is an asset. “I think an outsider who has been successfully fighting corporations for decades, is the person you want to take back the government,” Steyer said, adding that he supports congressional term limits and a national ballot initiative system, similar to California’s.

Questions from the Board

Local 63 OCU President John Fageaux led the questions with one that was on many minds, asking Steyer, “What’s it like to be a billionaire?” Steyer said he plans to give away at least half of his wealth to good causes while he is alive, explaining that he is using that money to help make America a better country.

“There’s a larger question about what we are doing on this earth. I’m deeply interested in having a meaningful life and feeling like I’ve left the campsite better than I found it,” he said.


Local 34 Board member David Gonzales asked about Steyer’s position on immigration. Steyer said the Trump Administration’s policy was rooted in racial discrimination and that the practice of separating children from their parents at the border violates human rights and international laws that protect people seeking asylum.

“We have a president who, on his very first day of running for office, vilified and attacked Latinos. He’s has used immigration as a racist attack on people of color,” Steyer said.

Support for the Jones Act

Marina Secchitano, President of the Inlandboatmen’s Union, asked Steyer if he supported the Jones Act that protects good union maritime jobs and whether wind turbines off the California Coast should be covered by the Jones Act. Steyer said he supported the Jones Act and clean energy policies that will create millions of good-paying jobs.

“I’m the person in this race who first pledged to make climate their number one priority,” Steyer said. “If we do it the way I propose, we will create 4.5 million jobs, and they will be good-paying union jobs.”

The right to clean air and water

Responding to a question by Local 26 President Luisa Gratz about whether oil companies should be allowed to use fracking to get more oil, Steyer said, “Nobody has the right to poison you and your family so they can make more money. In terms of fracking, if a company is poisoning the water and causing cancer, that has to stop.”

Gratz also asked Steyer about his plan to defeat Trump.

“The Republicans are going to run on the economy. The Democratic nominee has to run on the economy and I can do that,” Steyer said. “Donald Trump is a total fake. He’s a fake business person. He played a business person on a reality TV show, and he’s a fake as a president in terms of economics, and I’m going to expose that.” International Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris asked Steyer for details about his climate action plan, to which Steyer pledged to declare a “state of emergency” on day one – then establish ‘something like’ the Green New Deal, and adopt a justice-based approach to the environment by cleaning-up air and water pollution in communities where it is unsafe to breathe the air and drink the water.”

“America is the only country that can lead the world in this, and if we don’t, it isn’t going to happen. This also gives us a chance to rebuild the United States, and make our country more just, while creating millions of good-paying union jobs. It’s the biggest challenge in the history of the planet and we have to succeed together.”

Student loan debt

Local 22’s Dax Koho asked Steyer about the growing problem of college student debt. Steyer said, “Banks are loan sharking a bunch of kids. The interest rate on student loans should be one percent. And students who take a job that serves our country – in the military, teachers, nurses, social workers— your loan should be forgiven as part of your pay,”

Criminal justice reform

International Vice President Bobby Olvera, Jr. asked about criminal justice reform and Steyer said he supports reforming policing practices, eliminating cash bail, getting rid of mandatory minimums, and combatting discrimination against formerly incarcerated people for voting, housing, and employment.

“The Department of Justice should make sure that police officers who misbehave, especially in regards to race, must be corrected,” Steyer said.

Public option, not Medicare for all

Local 19’s Dan McKisson asked Steyer about his views on healthcare reform. Steyer said health care was a right and that he supports a public option along with private health insurance, but opposes Medicare for All. “Over 160 million Americans have negotiated for health insurance. I just hate telling 160 million people that we know better than you do about your life,” he said.

Biden arrives

Former Vice President Joe Biden – current leader of the pack hoping to challenge President Trump – was escorted into the room by President Adams – and the entrance was telling. He shook hands and greeted Board members and guests as if they were old friends – quickly established rapport with many in the room.

His stump speech was sometimes emotional and occasionally brash, but aimed more often for sincerity and heart-felt conviction. There were also a few slips of the tongue – an old Biden habit that some find endearing and others see as a weakness. He addressed the flaws by telling a story about him stuttering as a child and confronting the neighborhood bullies who taunted him. “I know how to deal with bullies and win,” he says, making an obvious reference to defeating Donald Trump.

And Biden isn’t shy about promoting his frontrunner status and “electability” – a label he wears proudly that is confirmed by polls showing him ahead of fellow Democrats and beating Trump in a match-up. At the ILWU, he emphasized the impressive support he’s attracted from African American voters that should help him in South Carolina after the dust settles in Iowa and New Hampshire. Biden explains that support by emphasizing his eight years with President Obama, connections with the civil rights movement and 36 years of service as Senator for

Delaware, which he said has the 8th largest percentage of African Americans in the nation – over 20% – which is higher than North Carolina and over three times greater than California. After establishing his political cred, Biden pivoted to what most wanted to hear: his views about working families and unions. Biden began by citing some well-known facts, beginning with the decline of union density in the private sector that was 25% when he was first elected to the Senate in 1972, down to just above 6% today. He quoted from the National Labor Relations Act, passed by Franklin Roosevelt in 1935, saying, “it calls on the government to actively promote unions – not just legalize them.” And he repeatedly expressed support for the latest labor law reform bill in Congress, called “Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO-Act.”

Responding to a question from Local 30 member Kevin Martz about the decline of aerospace jobs in the Antelope Valley, Biden said the federal government has enormous purchasing power plus the ability to create jobs and influence investment. He added that federal contracts should include a requirement that forces companies to obey labor laws or lose their contracts.

Local 34 member David Gonzales asked how Biden would make changes at the border and with immigration. “It’s all about family – and family separation must end,” said Biden. He also pledged to provide fair hearings for asylum seekers escaping violence – and said he would do more to combat poverty and corruption that contribute to migration.

Biden responded to an inquiry from Marina Secchitano, President of the Inlandboatmen’s Union, about the Jones Act, saying he remains a strong supporter. He then pivoted to the need for more good union jobs that would result from his $100 billion renewable energy program that would be funded with tax credits to spur private investment.

Vice President Bobby Olvera, Jr., asked Biden what he would do to help the next generation make the world a better place. That question became an opportunity for Biden to talk about some personal experiences – including the loss of his son Beau to cancer, that helped shaped his own priorities for the future.

Biden said as a young man, he was influenced by the civil rights movement and decided to leave a fancy law firm in order to become a public defender. He ended his talk with a rallying cry.

“We’re in a battle for the soul of America,” he concluded, “and you’re gonna see the U.S. coming back.”

Samantha Levens welcomed

Samantha Levens: new ITF Inspector for Northern California

President Willie Adams introduced the Board to Samantha Levens, the newly-hired Inspector for the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) who will be working out of the Bay Area. A longtime activist and elected leader from the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU) San Francisco Region, Levens has also worked as an ILWU Organizer.

“I’m honored to be working as an ITF Inspector and look forward to help seafarers organize for their rights and build solidarity between all maritime workers,” they said.

Organizing Reports

International Vice President (Mainland) Bobby Olvera, Jr. led a series of presentations on the union’s new organizing program that he’s overseeing to support and involve all parts of the union.

“We’re developing a comprehensive program with some new and different approaches,” said Olvera, Jr., who called on several organizing staff to make brief presentations to the Board, including Organizing Director Ryan Dowling, Assistant Organizing Director Jon Brier, Bay Area Organizer Agustin Ramirez and Researcher Bridget Wack.

Each detailed the new work they’re doing to protect good jobs for existing members and help grow the union. Signs of progress include a newly-negotiated first contract secured by 65 workers at the Anchor Brewery in San Francisco, where employees organized to win significant pay and benefit improvements. Another report detailed an ongoing successful campaign to help 65-110 maritime-related workers at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography/University of California, who are in the process of affiliating with the ILWU’s Marine Division – the Inland- Boatmen’s Union (IBU). These University employees operate and support a fleet of four scientific research vessels near San Diego. They’ve already signed union cards and are preparing for the next steps to organize.

“I expect we’ll have more good news to share with you at the April Board meeting,” said Olvera, Jr.

New Board member John Simpliciano

President Adams administered the oath of office to new International Executive Board member, John Simpliciano, who was welcomed with a warm round of applause from fellow Board members. John currently works as a temporary Business Agent at the Maui Division Office where he helps Local 142 members.

$93 million jury verdict discussed

Other action at the Board included a briefing and discussion about the $93 million jury verdict against the ILWU, that was covered in last month’s Dispatcher. The Board held their discussion in executive session. The verdict is the subject of a federal court hearing scheduled for February 14.

Resolution to save historic art

A resolution submitted by Local 10 passed unanimously, calling on the ILWU to help preserve historicmurals at Washington High School in San Francisco that were created by artist Victor Arnautoff in the mid-1930’s. They depict injustices inflicted on Native and African Americans by the “founding fathers.” The artist also created many murals celebrating the contributions of working people and their struggles to establish labor unions – including the ILWU.

Legislative Report

In addition to detailed reports provided from each Board member about developments in their local or region, an extensive report on legislation and political action was presented by Legislative Director Lindsay McLaughlin. Recent legislative efforts include influencing the National Defense Authorization Act – a mammoth spending bill. McLaughlin said the ILWU was successful in securing language that allows longshore workers to work on defense installations using TWIC credentials. The Pentagon is objecting and wants further background checks, so McLaughlin will continue working on the issue. The union was also successful in seeing that the Maritime Committee on Occupational Safety and Health would be treated as a “standing committee” which requires regular meetings. The effort was needed because the Trump administration was preventing the Committee from meeting. Finally, the ILWU successfully stopped efforts to use federal dollars for port automation projects. The law will prevent funding for automation unless it can be shown that no jobs would be lost.

In other legislative work, the ILWU helped influence House appropriation language that instructs government grain inspectors to not cross picket lines. In another matter, California Senator Dianne Feinstein wrote a letter expressing concern about dangerous shipments of cyanide from China that could arrive at the Port of Oakland for use in gold and silver mines. She requested the Department of Homeland Security to review that matter prior to any shipments arriving from China.

The potentially lethal material is not properly packaged to protect workers and nearby residents from what could become a catastrophe.

There was an update on a pension “reform” bill that would punish current workers to help pay for ailing pension plans. The ILWU wants pension benefits protected for all workers and is seeking federal funds to help – a policy opposed by the Trump administration.

Resolution on Political Action

McLaughlin’s report concluded with a focus on political action – emphasizing the importance of member participation and involvement in the fight for good jobs, protecting pensions, Social Security, Medicare, and other concerns for working families. The Board unanimously passed a resolution calling for a plan to improve political action at the local union level. International President Willie Adams announced that Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris had been assigned to visit local unions and help them build a political action program that includes education, voter registration, and voluntary contributions to the ILWU Political Action Fund.

“I’m planning to hit the road after the holidays to help locals get rolling with political action work that’s so important now,” said Ferris. “We can’t allow our jobs and the union’s future to be dictated by the powerful interests who control politics now,” he said.

Resolution supporting Local 9

Finally, the Board unanimously passed a resolution carried by Local 22 that calls for the International Union to express support for Local 9 members working at SEATAC Airport who are trying to negotiate a new contract.

The next meeting of the ILWU International Executive Board will take place in April, on a date yet to be determined.

“There’s a good chance the Board will consider endorsing a presidential candidate at that meeting,” said International President Willie Adams.

Categories: Unions

We are the ILWU: Inlandboatmen’s Union, SoCal Region

ILWU - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 10:15

Editor’s note: The Dispatcher will be profiling ILWU Locals and Affiliates in the coming months. This profile of the IBU’s Southern California Region was the first one in the series and was drawn at random.

Inlandboatmen’s Union, Southern California Region


The Southern California Region of the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU) represents approximately 200 members – plus an additional 80 “registrants” who are not yet union members but pay a fee to be eligible for work assignments dispatched from the hiring hall.

The Southern California region is extensive, covering 350 miles of coastline from the Mexican border to Morro Bay. San Diego was the IBU’s first Southern California local established in 1934, followed by the San Pedro local in 1935. Workers on water taxis, ferries, tugs, barges, and some kelp-cutters helped grow the union’s jurisdiction to include all unlicensed personnel, including deckhands, watchmen, bargemen, oilers, firemen, cooks and galley staff. The San Diego and San Pedro areas merged to become the Southern California Region in 1941-1946.

“These days, IBU members in Southern California do mostly tug work,” said Regional Director John Skow, explaining the tugs are involved with ship-assist work, marine construction, and fuel-barge transfer work. “We have a small unit on Catalina Island that works on the glass-bottom tour boats and also work on boats that deliver passengers to ships out in the anchorages.”

The work performed by IBU members is skilled and potentially hazardous. Workers are required to receive and maintain Coast Guard-certified training and credentials.

The process includes a mixture of “sea time” accumulated through on-the-job training, classroom instruction and passing rigorous exams. That wasn’t always the case, with requirements tightened after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill that devastated Alaska’s Prince William Sound. The Coast Guard now has license requirements for every maritime worker classification.

“The job classifications we have in the IBU include captains who drive the tug boats, deckhands on the fuel barges, tankermen who deliver the fuel with help from tankermen assistants – but it’s mainly tug captains and deckhands,” Skow said. “It’s the best-kept secret in the harbor because you make good money – but it’s not easy to get those credentials and maintain them, although once you get them, you can make a good living.”

In the past, workers had limited options for schooling needed to enter the maritime industry. The California State University system operates a full-time Maritime Academy in Vallejo, but tuition is $7,000 a year and enrollment is limited.

San Diego’s Training Resources Maritime Institute in San Diego is a private company that charges over $1000 for their 5-day courses. Those under the age of 25 may qualify for an excellent 18-month program at the Tongue Point Academy in Astoria, Oregon, with free tuition, funded by the federal Job Corps program, but enrollment is limited.

To provide more opportunities, the IBU recently opened its own apprenticeship program in San Pedro with Coast Guard-approved training. The IBU’s apprenticeship school is a two-year program that provides mariners with the skills and knowledge to safely enter a marine industry career. They also offer classes for experienced mariners who need to renew and expand their credentials. The basic program involves 3,000 hours of on-the-job training, plus 420 hours of supplemental instruction and training.

“We noticed there were a lot of people older than 25 who signed up on our list with no experience,” said Scow. “Those men and women have a hard time breaking into the industry without experience, so we got the idea to start an apprenticeship program to give them a chance.”

Raymond Quintana, IBU member

I’ve been working in the maritime industry for 4 ½ years. I started out by doing 2 ½ years of training at the Tongue Point Job Corps Center in Oregon. The first year-and-a-half was through the IBU, where I got my AB (Able Bodied Seaman) and QMED (Qualified Member of the Engine Department). I did an additional year of school at the Clatsup Community College maritime program in Astoria, where I received my Tankerman-PIC, my 100-Ton Masters license, my 200-Ton Mate, and my degree in vessel operations.

After graduating, I signed-up at multiple IBU halls and was hired right away at Crowley’s petroleum fleet. I worked there for approximately 3 years, starting as a Tankerman Assistant for about two years, then became a Tankerman for one year.

During that time, I was living on board a tug boat for three years. We were doing month-ling hitches, working one month, then having one month off—approximately 28 days each. I was trained to work with oil and pump machinery. We loaded oil in Seattle and would take that all along the West Coast. I worked all over the Coast—Vancouver, BC, Richmond, Oakland, San Francisco, Coos Bay, Los Angeles, Alaska and everywhere in-between. I left that job to get hired out of this hall in San Pedro where I’ve worked with Harley Marine and Foss Maritime.

I’m the first mariner in my immediate family. I have one great uncle who is an ILWU Local 13 crane operator. Prior to becoming an ILWU member, he was in the IBU for ten years and told me about the union, which was what got me into the industry. My dad’s side of the family are all longshore workers and this was a way for me to do a similar kind of work – but also allowed me to branch out and do my own thing. You face all of the same dangers on a ship that are on a construction site. On top of that, you’re in the ocean and face added dangers of drowning, hypothermia, and heatstroke.

We also face hazards from lines. The newer lines are made with synthetic fibers that store a lot of energy when they’re under pressure. You have to be aware and alert all the time. A lot of major injuries happen when people feel comfortable.

What the union represents to me is a safe opportunity. There are plenty of non-union jobs out there. I have cousins who work non-union jobs and they’re always telling me how unsafe their jobs are. Safety can come in many forms. The industry is evolving and unions are able to protect workers from long-term hazards, not just short-term ones like slipping, tripping, or falling by installing non-skid protections.

Chances are you won’t go your entire career without getting hurt. When it does happen, you want to make sure it is something you can bounce back from and not something that leaves you permanently scarred for the rest of your life. The difference between something you can bounce back from and permanent injury can be as simple as wearing a hardhat or steel-toed boots. Something like that has to be implemented through policies. Another safety issue is work hours in an industry that’s as dangerous as ours. If you are not well-rested, mistakes can happen. Ensuring that mariners get adequate rest was not something that was always implemented, but because of the union, now it is. The union is there to make sure that you leave work in the same condition that you started—with all your fingers and toes. I’m glad I have this job with my union backing me up.


John Skow IBU Southern California Regional Director

I got started in the industry a couple of years out of high school when I joined the Coast Guard. I was always really interested in working on boats. I joined the IBU after ten years in the military. My first job was running a boom boat that deployed oil booms around barges. I loved that job and did it for five years before getting my tankerman certs. I did that job for about 20 years and worked on tugs too.

One of the significant changes I’ve seen in the industry it the reduced manning. That doesn’t sit well with me because they expect you to do more with less. When I first came into the industry, I can recall we had five men to a tug. And now we are down to two-person tugs. Now they’re experimenting with automated tugs. With the reduced manning, you wonder about safety. If you’re working and fall in the water, who’s going to come pull you out – the Captain who’s running the boat?

I’m very proud to be a member of the ILWU family. I have a lot of pride being a union member and officer. There’s a lot of hard-working people in this industry. There’s a lot of people who don’t like us, but I’m very proud of being a part of this organization because we fight for workers. We care about all workers, not just those in the IBU. Negotiating our contracts even helps non-union workers because it maintains the area standards.

Eric Bland, Tug boat operator

I’m a tug boat operator with Foss Maritime in LA/Long Beach Harbor. I work primarily the at THUMS Oil Islands. We service those islands with crew boats and tugs. The THUMS Islands are man-made islands that sit in the LA/Long Beach harbor. They were designed by one of the architects that worked at Disneyland.

They are off-shore oil rigs that are camouflaged to look like islands. The ones closest to shore look like condominiums. We run the personnel out to the islands. We also run equipment out to islands, drilling equipment and other supplies that are put on a barge and pushed to the islands with a push tug. That’s a 24-hour a day, 7 days a week operation.

Being a tug boat operator means you are running the tug, maneuvering the tug—you are the Master of the vessel. You are designated by the Coast Guard as the Master of the Tow and you are in charge of the marine safety of that vessel and personnel onboard. Everything falls on your shoulders. I started in the merchant industry in 1987 after coming out of the navy. I started in the working maintenance in the Alaska oil trade for 4-5 years before I found my way to the inland waters and the IBU. My first job with the IBU was at Catalina Cruises.

I’ve seen some changes in the industry for good and bad. It has tried to be more safety-conscious in many ways. We all want go home safe at the end of the day. For the bad, the industry has reduced manning to a two-person vessel and a lot of companies have a live-aboard situation which is not conducive to a safe work environment. When a boat is constantly running and a guy is off-watch trying to get some sleep or they are called up while off watch it can cause a lot of accumulated fatigue.

That’s one of the situations that probably won’t change until something happens. Until then, we will probably continue to work under fatigue. There’s a fix. If the company wanted to do the right thing for the workers in the harbor, the companies

could easily have a facility in the company’s yard similar to what the fire department has—where they could get off the boat for six hours and walk into a trailer with places for workers to sleep. That would be a better situation for them.

The dangers of the industry are real. In 2007 an IBU member, Piper Cameron was killed in this harbor. Her life meant something and that was a very tragic moment for our industry. Foss named a vessel in her honor.

The union continues to play a vital part in making sure workers are safe. It plays a vital part in protecting wages and jobs. I’m thankful for everything the union has done. I have been able to raise a kid and maintain a household because of my union job.

Peter Korody, IBU pensioner and former Regional Director

My first dispatch was in 1974, working at Catalina Cruises in Long Beach as a deckhand. My first dispatch was in 1974, working at Catalina Cruises in Long Beach as a deckhand. We carried up to 700 passengers. It was a seasonal summer job. In 1976, I was dispatched to a dredging job in San Diego on a dredge tender. I worked there for over a year. It was hard work, 8 hours a day, 6 days a week.

We were making at least $12.00 an hour and that was big money in those days. In 1980, I was dispatched to Foss, which was a steady job for me. I stayed there for about 12 years. I was active in bargaining contracts and served on the Joint Labor Relations Committee.

We had a lot of fun working on the tugs, going out to sea and doing all sorts of tows and harbor-assist work. We also did a lot of military work which involved target tows and supply runs to San Nichols Island out of Port Hueneme.

There’s a restricted area past San Nicolas Island where they occasionally practiced shooting missiles. We’d drop these old battleships and leave them there. Then they would tell us to come back to pick them up after the target practices.

Around 1988, the IBU went out on a 139-day strike at Foss over the manning of oil barges. In 1990, the tugboat I crewed on crashed into the dock and I was injured. I was on off-duty for about 2-3 years. While I was recovering, I volunteered at the hall and got the opportunity to learn a lot. I got involved with some of the organizing efforts that were going on.

I also participated in opposing the bunker fuel tax. The State of California decided to put a sales tax on bunker fuel and our work collapsed in some of the larger California Ports.

I spent many months going to Sacramento to convince the legislature to pass an exemption for bunker fuel.

I was elected to the union executive board in 1991. In 1994 I served as Chairman of the Region through 2002. In 2002 I was elected Regional Director and served two terms until 2008. Organizing new companies is the union’s lifeline. Being out on the waterfront is dangerous work. We worked hard and watched out for each other. It was hard

always having the employer trying to down-size our crews. The IBU has always stood out as a union that is based on serving the membership. It was a way a life and I had a rewarding career. I was lucky to meet the right people and the right mentors. Even in retirement, I continue to maintain friendships and keep in contact with people from when I was an active member and officer.

Categories: Unions

President’s message

ILWU - Thu, 12/05/2019 - 15:05

The struggles that the ILWU is facing have brought us to a watershed moment. We’re moving through a difficult storm in the path of our union’s rich history and continued story. There will be painful conversations. A few of our opponents have even written obituaries for our union. But, rest assured, there are no funeral plans and the ILWU will survive this challenge. We must remain calm and focused.

Your elected officers recently spent several weeks in Portland inside a federal courtroom at an important trial with other ILWU and Coast Longshore Division officers, including International Vice President Bobby Olvera, Jr., Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris, and Coast Committeemen Frank Ponce De Leon and Cameron Williams.

Our legal team mounted a heartfelt and robust defense against ICTSI Oregon, Inc. – a subsidiary of a Philippines-based company ICTSI Inc. – that formerly operated the Port of Portland’s container terminal.

Our lawsuit with ICTSI stems from a labor dispute between ICTSI and the union in 2012, when ICTSI became a signatory to a labor agreement with the ILWU but refused to assign all of the work covered by the collective bargaining agreement to ILWU-represented workers. The labor dispute was quickly decided in ICTSI’s favor by the NLRB and later in federal court, while labor-management relations at Portland’s container terminal worsened for unrelated reasons.

At the end of a two-week trial in Portland on November 4th, a jury decided a $93 million verdict against the ILWU and Local 8. The size of the jury verdict left us shocked, but worse was the mischaracterization throughout the trial that the ILWU does not care about the Oregon community or the Port of Portland. In fact, we are part of the community, and the men and women of the ILWU literally broke their backs building and helping to make Portland’s container terminal sustainable for years.

While we respect the process, we disagree with the excessive damages award, which supposedly compensated ICTSI for lost profits and some additional costs for a five-year period. It is our view that the award is not supported by the evidence, but based instead on speculation. The award is also several times what ICTSI projected it would make during that same five-year time period. Because we believe the jury’s damages award is inconsistent with the evidence, we will raise these concerns with the Court.

The Judge has responded to our concerns by postponing entry of judgment on the verdict so we can have the opportunity to tell the Court why we believe the verdict is not supported by the evidence offered at trial. That process is now underway, but the Judge will not rule on the post-trial motions until February at the earliest.

Since early November, the International Officers and the ILWU Coast Longshore Division Coast Committee Officers have been consulting and sharing information with other union officers and delegates. On November 12, International Executive Board Trustees and Longshore Division local union presidents convened separately to receive an update. On November 13 and 14, the ILWU Coast Longshore Caucus delegates gathered to discuss the outcome of the trial and next steps. In both cases, the discussion was positive, underscoring our solidarity and resolve.

We’re hoping that the Court will review the verdict and explore a different outcome – one that is more fair and consistent with the evidence. If that doesn’t happen, there’s a possibility that we may seek protection in federal court to re-organize our finances under protections allowed by the federal bankruptcy court. While nobody wants to take this step, it may be the best way to protect the ILWU and to allow us to return to sound financial footing as quickly as possible.

If that step is necessary, and we hope it won’t be, your union will continue helping new members and ILWU veterans, just like we’ve been doing since 1934. As your President, I consider this my highest duty. We all have an obligation to protect this institution that was built by generations of working men and women who sacrificed to improve working conditions and fight for the working class, despite the numerous setbacks and obstacles encountered along the way.

The ILWU’s democratic decision-making process, including the International Executive Board and the Longshore Division Caucus, will help us make the best decisions possible. At the same time, we’ll be alert for any employer or politician who thinks they can take advantage of this temporary setback. Finally, I’d like to clarify and reassure everyone that your ILWU pensions, savings plans and health benefits will not be impacted by these legal matters. There will be no changes in your contracts or working conditions.

During the coming months, we’ll keep you informed as this process unfolds. I’d like to finish this section of the report by acknowledging the many messages of solidarity and support we’ve receive from unions around the world who contacted us after the verdict was announced. It’s a reminder that workers everywhere need to stand up, stick together and continue seeking justice. Let’s learn from this experience, redouble our collective strength in support of the working class, and keep moving forward.

Solidarity matters

I want to share another important event that happened last month. Most of us watched the recent United Autoworkers strike against General Motors from a distance because GM closed their West Coast assembly plants many years ago. I felt it was important for the ILWU to show our solidarity for these 50,000 autoworkers who participated in their largest job action since 2007, when GM employed 50% more union workers. That’s why I took a red-eye flight in October to Flint, Michigan, where I met Sean Crawford, a young, rank-and-file leader. He told me that generations of his family have lived in Flint and been active in the United Autoworkers. They were union members from the beginning, including the 1936-‘37 “sit-down strike” in Flint that inspired workers throughout the country and made GM a union company.

Sean and I spent the day in Flint, walking on picket lines and visiting the “Sit-Down” memorial where many workers, including some of his family members, are honored. We spoke with local union activists and leaders, young people and veterans. All of them talked about their union, the labor movement and the state of America’s working class. It was a chilly day, with burn barrels to keep strikers warm on the picket lines as evening fell. They stayed on those picket lines 24-hours a day for six long weeks, until the company finally gave enough for a contract that was ratified by 57% of the membership – although it wasn’t the contract everyone hoped for.

I returned from my day in Flint humbled by what those autoworkers were up against – and how bravely they waged their struggle against difficult odds, in an industry that’s been outsourcing hundreds of thousands of good-paying union jobs to plants in China, Mexico and “right-to-work-for-less” states in the southern U.S.

But that’s not all – they’re also facing robots. The auto industry was using 127,000 robots in 2016, and certainly has more today. To their credit, the United Autoworkers has responded, in part, by undertaking organizing campaigns to help autoworkers in southern states join the union. Those campaigns have faced brutal opposition from the auto industry and politicians who hate unions, but the United Autoworkers hasn’t given up.

Clearly, we are facing challenges. There is pain, but we will survive. Your ILWU officers, attorneys and staff are grinding away each day, turning over every stone and fighting every inch of the way, regardless of the ups and downs, to ensure that we survive and get stronger with each challenge. Remain calm and focused. The ILWU will continue as a symbol of hope for working men, women and families all over the world.

An injury to one is an injury to all.

Categories: Unions
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