Alaska ferry workers continue fight for Marine Highway System

ILWU - Wed, 05/15/2019 - 16:09

Organizing in Alaskan waters: Crewmembers on the ferry Columbia, one of 9 vessels operated by the Alaska Marine Highway System, “buttoned-up” on April 5th with the message “Fair Contract Now,” as their ferry traveled from Ketchikan to Bellingham, WA. A few days later on April 8th, members attended an action back in Ketchikan where Alaska’s governor and Chamber of Commerce executives were pushing plans to destroy the public ferry system and replace it with a private one. IBU Alaska Patrolman Krissel Calibo reached out to members on the Columbia in Ketchikan, while Puget Sound IBU members Anthony Distefano and Rolland Lee met the crew upon arrival in Bellingham, the Marine Highway’s southernmost terminal.

The campaign to save good jobs and quality service provided by Alaska ferry workers continued in March and through April. Trouble started when the governor proposed slashing the state’s Marine Highway System budget by 75% – along with other vital services. Members of the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU) have been mobilizing with community supporters to save the system beginning several months ago, and they haven’t stopped since.

Talking with legislators

A team of 10 IBU members went to Capitol Hill in Juneau on March 28th where they met with 17 different legislators. The union members stuck together when they visited a legislator’s office, and made a point of sharing personal stories that conveyed how much customers depend on the ferry system to keep connected. The group made plans in advance about which legislators they would visit, and whether lawmakers were leaning “for” or “against” saving the ferry system. A typical 15-minute meeting ended with union members posing a question: “Can we get your support for full-service funding?”

After pushing for a clear commitment, the group would leave behind a pamphlet at each office – prepared with help from IBU member Anthony Distefano – listing ways that the ferry system could be run more efficiently and generate more revenue.

One particularly important meeting was secured with State Senator Bert Stedman, Chairman of the powerful Finance Committee. Union members used their opportunity to explain how vital the Marine Highway System is to keeping coastal communities connected – while providing an essential service that benefits all state residents. It was a long but interesting day at the capitol, but most everyone remained involved and the effort had a positive impact on legislators.

Contract effort continues

Besides fighting to protect the public ferry system, members have also been trying to renew their contract. Efforts to reach an agreement with state officials during the past three years have not been successful, so the old contract remains in effect while talks continue. To make more progress possible, efforts have been made to involve and educate more workers about the need to show unity and action. That’s what happened on April 5th when a statewide “button-up” was organized to encourage everyone to wear a “Fair Contracts Now” button. Support extended beyond Alaska into the Puget Sound Region, where IBU members there paid a solidarity visit to the Alaska ferry vessel “Columbia,” when it arrived at the system’s southern terminal in Bellingham. The show of solidarity was well-received and encouraged crewmembers to see the benefits of working together on a common goal.

Meeting with a DOT official

An unexpected benefit of the March 28th Lobby day was a meeting with State House member Andi Story, who represents the Mendenhall Valley of Juneau. She helped secure a meeting with Mary Siroky, Deputy Commissioner of Alaska’s Department of Transportation. Officials said in advance that they were open to hearing concerns, so IBU members came prepared with a binder containing over 50 grievances that have been active during the past year against ferry management at the central office in Ketchikan. Members made a strong case for how the union could help manage the dispatch system in ways that would save time, money and eliminate most of the grievances. Ms. Sirkoy was respectful and responsive to the suggestions that were offered.

Hiring an expert to help

IBU’s Alaska Region recently decided to hire an experienced advisor and former State official who knows his way around the halls and offices of the State Capital in Juneau, and also has many helpful contacts in rural areas. The new advisor will help the union during the limited time remaining in this year’s legislative session.

Meeting with Lt. Governor

As The Dispatcher was going to press, IBU members had secured a meeting with Lt. Governor Kevin Myers – the result of new political connections being made by the union and efforts by Regional Director Trina Arnold. Anything significant that results from this meeting will be reported in a future issue of The Dispatcher.

Members & community involved

IBU leaders in Alaska say they’re pleased with progress being made now, especially in terms of greater membership involvement and participation. With the Ferry System battle raging and a greater outreach and education effort underway, more members are attending events and volunteering. The IBU is coordinating efforts with the AFL-CIO and other unions, and the IBU’s clever “Save our System” (SOS) campaign fits nicely with one led by Alaska’s AFL-CIO, dubbed “Save Our State.” Another positive development is their newly-acquired and valuable legislative experience. Results seem to include a more responsive legislature.

Previous months saw unprecedented public budget testimony that lasted several days – setting a new record when over 600 people came forward to testify – many of them speaking in favor of the ferry system. The union also had their first experience organizing a “roadshow” that helped reach beyond the Capital to contact legislators in their home districts – and organize residents there to participate and speak out. The governor was put on the defensive and forced to start his own version of a “roadshow.” But unlike the effort organized by union volunteers, his was funded by private corporate interests, including the anti-union Koch Brothers, and any questions from citizens were carefully screened and controlled.

The result of the IBU effort is more people – both inside and outside the union – who are asking questions and expecting more from their representatives. Alaska’s House of Representatives recently voted to reject budget recommendations from the governor, adopting their own budget instead that spared the Ferry System from drastic cut.

Next battle in the State Senate

Now the fight moves to the State Senate, which will be harder because corporate and political interests hold more sway there. IBU Alaska has been doing everything possible to be positioned for a

Organizing in Alaskan waters: Crewmembers on the ferry Columbia, one of 9 vessels operated by the Alaska Marine Highway System, “buttoned-up” on April 5th with the message “Fair Contract Now,” as their ferry travelled from Ketchikan to Bellingham, WA. A few days later on April 8th, members attended an action back in Ketchikan where Alaska’s governor and Chamber of Commerce executives were pushing plans to destroy the public ferry system and replace it with a private one. IBU Alaska Patrolman Krissel Calibo reached out to members on the Columbia in Ketchikan, while Puget Sound IBU members Anthony Distefano and Rolland Lee met the crew upon arrival in Bellingham, the Marine Highway’s southernmost terminal.

‘seat at the table’ when key decisions are made about the future of the public ferry system – made possible by encouraging members to take a more active role and realize their untapped power by working together.

Robb Arnold, Vice chair

IBU Alaska Region Executive Board

Categories: Unions

President’s message

ILWU - Wed, 05/15/2019 - 10:42

Sisters and Brothers of the ILWU, I would like to begin by thanking all of the officers and staff who are working so tirelessly to help the members of our union face some of the most challenging times in our history. We’re facing headwinds instead of tailwinds; dealing with employers who are challenging things as simple as paying health benefits – and serious as outsourcing work and destroying jobs.

In early April, I attended several meetings where we had to raise difficult, sometimes painful issues, including what work could look like in the future. Some of these difficult discussions took place at the International Executive Board meeting, followed by the Longshore Caucus on April 16. Some of the same issues came into sharp focus during a rally in Southern California, where community and union members are rightly concerned about plans to automate Terminal 400 at the Port of Los Angeles – a move that could destroy hundreds of good jobs. Each of these meetings raised different problems, but the take-away was the same: we’re facing challenging times that require honest, sometimes painful discussions. I realize that our union has been through difficult times before, and that we’ll survive these challenges, but the International Officers and I want to be open with you about what we’re up against – and how we’re responding.

Global grain giants

In the Pacific Northwest, global grain companies are demanding concessions and refusing to sign fair contracts. These international grain merchants are making healthy profits – but want workers to have less so they can take more. One exception is TEMCO, a grain terminal operator who negotiated a fair contract with us in just a few meetings for their terminals in Tacoma, Kalama and Portland.

Compare that to Galivan, Inc., owner of the Kalama Export Terminal, which is still refusing to pay the same health and pension benefits to Local 21 members that all other ILWU in-house elevator employees enjoy. We’ll keep negotiating with Kalama Export and the other grain companies, despite their demands to squeeze workers and family farmers. This challenge is forming stronger bonds between family farmers and ILWU members, because we’re both facing pressure from the same big grain companies. We’ve had promising talks with leaders from the National Farmers Union, and I hope we can work together in the times ahead.

Automation that’s killing good jobs

Many U.S. workers – not just dockworkers – are being hurt by automation that threatens to permanently eliminate good jobs. In Southern California, many community members around the Port of LA are fighting back against a proposed project that would replace hundreds of workers with automated equipment at Terminal 400. I’ve spent several days marching, rallying and talking with hundreds of these community leaders, business owners and port workers who are asking good questions, like: “What will happen to families, future generations and local businesses if automation destroys our good jobs at the port?” These questions and concerns must be fully considered by all stakeholders if West Coast port communities are going to be prosperous in the future for the many, not just a few.

Privatizing to destroy public service

In Alaska, ferry workers on the state-owned Marine Highway System belong to our Marine Division, the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific (IBU). They’re also fighting to save good jobs and dependable service that allows residents and business owners to survive in dozens of isolated communities. Alaska’s governor started this crisis by trying to slash funding for the ferries and other vital service by 75%. At the same time, private investors are maneuvering to swoop-in and privatize the public system. If this happens, there will be higher fares and service cuts for residents and small business owners, along with fewer jobs and a less certain future for ferry workers. IBU members have formed a coalition with community leaders, other unions and help from our International Organizing Department to fight back.

Union-busting continues

Workers from many industries continue asking us to help them organize and join the ILWU, including workers at America’s largest pet hospital chains. One of those chains is VCA, which operates more than 800 pet hospitals and was sold in 2017 for over $9 billion to Mars, the giant corporation that’s famous for M&M’s candy. Mars says it respects workers’ rights but allows VCA to hire union-busting consultants and attorneys to harass pet-care workers. On April 11th, I joined nearly one hundred ILWU Longshore Caucus delegates and supporters who rallied with workers at the Mars/VCA SFVS pet hospital in San Francisco. Workers there won a union election last year, and are now trying to negotiate for better patient care and working conditions – despite stalling tactics and resistance from VCA and Mars.

Courts & federal agencies

In the courts, we’re facing several challenges from employers and federal agencies. Philippine-based terminal operator ICTSI has us in a trial for damages in October of this year, and the Japanese company, Columbia Grain has also filed a frivolous lawsuit that deserves to be thrown out of court but will require litigation.

The Department of Labor also wants us to re-run the ILWU International election. We think they’ve got it wrong and will present facts and evidence to the court that prove the union acted in accordance with our Constitution and federal election law. The officers are committed to protecting the integrity and democracy of the ILWU’s election process.

Different problems, same solution

You may have different problems at your job, or maybe some of the same that I’ve mentioned here, but whatever the problem, all solutions have to begin with us coming together and talking honestly about what steps we can take collectively as a group. Here are some of the things that your International Officers are doing to make those next steps successful:

We’re talking to other unions, including ones that we’ve disagreed with in the past. Regardless of what’s happened before, we can’t close the door on helping each other in the future. Having more friends and allies in the labor movement is more important than ever, and is not something that we can take for granted.

We’re talking to other organizations and community groups who support unions and working families. This includes family farm organizations who are also struggling against big grain companies. We’re working with environmental groups who support our fight to keep stadiums and condos out of industrial areas and want to see more all-electric vehicles driven by longshore workers on the docks. We recognize and value the support of our local communities, and know that we can’t win these fights in isolation. We best protect our interests with the full support of our local communities.

We’re providing more training and resources to help rank-and-file members obtain the tools necessary for protecting our jurisdiction and our future. We are also developing ILWU leadership programs and cooperating with allied groups to further the development of our future ILWU leaders.

Looking forward means engaging in the 2020 Presidential election – in a way that’s good for the union, our families and the working class. If you have ideas and suggestions, we want to hear from you.

Open door for your ideas

The ILWU isn’t a big union, but we’ve always punched above our weight and earned respect from many of our peers. Tackling these problems that I’ve mentioned will require some difficult conversations, but I’m confident that we can succeed by sticking together, standing by our principles, reaching out to new allies and embracing new ideas. My door is always open to your ideas and any suggestions you may have to help us stay unified as we face the challenges ahead. Our thanks to each of you who are concerned and contributing so that our union can move forward and help more working families.

Categories: Unions

Longshore Caucus delegates meet in SF

ILWU - Sat, 05/04/2019 - 12:25

Coast Committee: The members of the Coast Committee were among the 86 delegates for the Longshore Division Caucus which met April 8-12 In San Francisco. Delegates tackled tough issues facing the Division including automation, jurisdiction, and safety. In the top photo (L-R) are ILWU International President Willie Adams and ILWU International Vice President (Mainland) Bobby Olvera, Jr. In bottom photo (L-R) are Coast Committeemen Cam Williams and Frank Ponce De Leon.

A group of 86 Coast Longshore Division Caucus delegates gathered in San Francisco from April 8-12 to share information, discuss policy and get the latest news from the ILWU Coast Committee. Caucus meetings begin with the election of a Chair, Secretary, Parliamentarian and Sergeant-at-Arms. Delegates elected Local 40’s George O’Neil as Chair, Local 13’s Mark Jurisic as Secretary, Local 47’s Robert Rose as Parliamentarian and Local 10’s Aaron Wright and 23’s Perry Hopkins as Sergeant-at-Arms.

The meeting was dedicated to the memory of more than 15 ILWU leaders who recently passed, including former International President Dave Arian, former Local 63 members Lewis Wright and Steven Bebich, Northwest labor historian Dr. Ron Magden, former IBU President Alan Coté, former Local 6 Secretary-Treasurer Fred Pecker, and Salvatore Cresci of Local 10.

ILWU International President Willie Adams requested that ILWU attorney Eleanor Morton provide the Caucus with a brief report about an ongoing Department of Labor investigation and potential lawsuit regarding the 2018 ILWU International election. The information provided to the Caucus was identical to the information that was provided to the International Executive Board the previous week. Discussion about new automation on the docks was extensive.

The Clerks’ Technology Committee provided an account of their efforts to monitor and defend jurisdiction from outsourcing – and make sure the new technology isn’t being used to evade compliance with the contract. Efforts to ramp-up the Longshore and M&R Technology Committees were discussed, especially in light of the automation plan pending at the Port of Los Angeles.

Mr. Chairman: Local 40’s George O’Neil was chosen by delegates to chair the Caucus on April 8.

The Safety Committee reported that hours worked on the coast are up and injuries are down, however considerable time was devoted to preventing horrible fatalities, such as one that took the life of Local 21 brother Byron Jacobs on June 28, 2018, when a vessel line snapped at the Port of Longview. A similar discussion concerned the death of Local 98 brother Craig Wheeler, who was struck by a trailer being backed-up by a UTR aboard a Tote vessel in Tacoma on December 21, 2018. The Safety Committee has responded by proposing new safety procedures and equipment that could prevent similar tragedies.

A report from the Pension and Welfare Committee explored claim processing problems, including out-of-network ambulance services, chiropractic and acupuncture treatment. An update on intraocular lenses, the devices used in cataract surgery, revealed that all forms of “specialty lenses” are now covered for members needing cataract eye surgery.

The health-related portion of the report concluded with an update from the Pensioners’ Long Term Care Committee, which is exploring the viability of a “hybrid” life insurance and long-term-care benefit.

The ILWU-PMA Pension Plan was estimated to be funded at 95% according to a consulting firm, but the actual percentage will fluctuate due to a variety of factors, including investment returns, benefit increases taking effect July 1, and whether the PMA decides to contribute more than legal minimums required by federal regulators.

Safety first: New safety equipment, including this helmet displayed by Safety Committee Chair Mike Podue, was discussed at the Caucus meeting.

The Caucus traditionally devotes time to matters of international solidarity, and this meeting was no exception.The Longshore Division and ILWU work closely with the International Transport Workers Federation, which has active campaigns to protest violence against dockworkers in Cameroon, support Spanish dockers opposed to privatizing public docks, helping Italian dockers protect union jurisdiction and safety rules, and oppose anti-union attacks in Colombia, Indonesia, PapuaNew Guinea, Ukraine. A report was provided about the campaigns in Australia, where Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) members are struggling to secure stevedoring, baggage handling, porter and security work on cruise ships operating in Australian and New Zealand ports. The struggle by Spanish dockers to cope with a national effort to privatize the nation’s public ports was also highlighted.

Legislative action topics included efforts by the ILWU to stop the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) from promoting and subsidizing automation at US ports. The effort was being spearheaded by the DOT’s Maritime Administration, known as MARAD. The ILWU is monitoring developments there. Anti-union members of Congress continue pushing automation subsidies, so the ILWU has been working with the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department to block funding for any automation project that destroys jobs. Anti-union policies and appointments continue to be implemented by the Trump administration at the Department of Labor and National Labor Relations Board.

Another Trump initiative, announced in late 2018, called for using military bases on the West Coast as coal export terminals. Washington State Governor Jay Inslee called the idea “reckless and harebrained,” adding, “The men and women who serve at our military bases are there to keep our country safe, not to service an export facility for private fossil fuel companies.” The legislative reports concluded with updates on work in the State legislatures of California, Oregon, and Washington.

On the last evening of the Caucus, members boarded buses to attend a rally with veterinary workers who voted last year to join the ILWU. That event was held in front of the VCA/SFVS animal hospital, owned by the Mars Corporation, that has hired anti-union attorneys and consultants to frustrate workers who are negotiating a first contract. The rally was well-attended and featured spirited talks from rank-and-file members and a call to action by International Vice President Bobby Olvera, Jr. Afterwards, the buses took. Caucus delegates to the nearby Anchor Brewery, where they met with workers who recently voted to join the ILWU.

The Caucus concluded the next day after agreeing on committee assignments for work that will take place until the next Caucus meeting.

Categories: Unions

Save the Port of Oakland May Day Rally (Video)

ILWU - Fri, 05/03/2019 - 11:55

Hundreds of community members came out to support ILWU Local 10 on May Day to save good paying jobs at the Port of Oakland. Those jobs and the region’s shipping industry are under threat from a proposed development to build a new stadium for the Oakland A’s at the port along with a high-priced condos and hotels in West Oakland.

Categories: Unions

ILWU Canada Young Workers’ Conference

ILWU - Fri, 04/19/2019 - 12:50

We are pleased to announce that ILWU Canada is holding their 4th Biennial Young Workers Conference September 4-6, 2019 in Vancouver, BC.  They have graciously opened participation to ILWU members outside the Canada Area.

Local unions or affiliates my nominate participants who are each required to fill out an online application.  Priority will be given to workers aged 35 and younger who have not participated in any previous ILWU Canada Young Workers conferences.  Due to space considerations, we anticipate having to limit each affiliate to one participant, but we will create a waiting list in case of cancellation or non-participation by any locals.

The Maritime Labour Centre, 1880 Triumph Street,
Vancouver, BC, Canada, V5L 1K3.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019 through Friday, September 6, 2019.
Registration begins at 8:00 a.m. on September 4th.


The ILWU International and ILWU Canada will cover the cost of training materials, breakfast, and lunch from September 4-6, and a banquet on the evening of September 6th.  The ILWU will also cover hotel accommodations (based on double occupancy for the nights of September 3-6).  This means that individuals willing to share a room with another participant will have no hotel costs.  Neither the ILWU International nor ILWU Canada will cover lost wages or other travel expenses. 

Register for the conference by the filling out the online form here.
The registration deadline is May 24, 2019.

If you have any questions, please contact ILWU Education Director Robin Walker or ILWU Research Director Russ Bargmann here at International headquarters.

Categories: Unions

Anchor Steam workers vote overwhelmingly to join ILWU

ILWU - Wed, 04/17/2019 - 11:00

Victory: Anchor workers celebrated the news that the second bargaining unit at Anchor Public Taps voted to join the ILWU by a 3-1 margin.

On March 13, production workers at San Francisco’s Anchor Steam brewery made history by voting to join the ILWU – becoming one of the first craft breweries to go union. The margin was 31-16 but the numbers increased two days later when service workers at the Anchor Public Taps voted 6-2 for the union. The victory capped-off a year of quiet organizing that went public on February 7, when 39 workers signed a letter telling the company they wanted a union.

“We were ecstatic with the outcome,” said Organizing Committee member Brace Belden. “We’ve been working on this for so long that it didn’t seem real to us. We got a clear victory, and we were excited about that.”

Iconic San Francisco brand

Anchor Steam is a historic San Francisco brand that dates back to the California Gold Rush. The business struggled in the early 20th Century and hit the skids several times, but the brewery was saved in 1965 by Fritz Maytag, heir to the Maytag appliance company fortune. Under Maytag’s leadership, the company improved the beer recipe, improved standards and upgraded the production process.

Anchor Steam’s popularity grew during the 1980’s and is now considered by many to be the birthplace of the “Craft Beer Movement.” Maytag sold the company in 2010 to an investment firm who then sold it to Japan’s Sapporo for $85 million in 2017. Sapporo workers at the company’s breweries in Japan and Canada were already union; now San Francisco has joined the list.

Inexperienced but well prepared

Belden said that union organizing was new to everyone when they started the campaign. “Almost no one in our plant had ever been in a union, with except for maybe one or two people.”

Several workers were members of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) San Francisco chapter and had attended Labor Notes conferences where they attended training workshops on workplace organizing. Belden says workers spent four months laying the foundation for the campaign before approaching the ILWU. “The ILWU was our only choice. We wanted to make sure we were well prepared and could show that we were serious about organizing,” he said. The ILWU joined forces with DSA chapter volunteers to help the Anchor workers win their campaign.

Deteriorating wages and conditions

Many Anchor workers have been struggling because wages and conditions declined in recent years. Starting wages fell after Fritz Maytag sold the brewery in 2010 from $17.25 to just $16.50 currently. Workers were also required to contribute significantly more for healthcare, and the company replaced paid lunch breaks with unpaid breaks. Anchor also stopped company contributions to the 401K retirement plan, reduced sick time by half, and eliminated the complimentary “shift beer” that workers enjoyed after clocking-out.

These cutbacks were on top of San Francisco’s housing costs – among the highest in the nation, where a single person earning less than $82,220 a year is considered “low-income.” Many Anchor workers have been forced to move farther from the city in search of more affordable housing – raising commute times and costs.

“We deserve to be able to survive in this city,” said Organizing Committee member Garret Kelly, “We deserve to be able to afford diapers for our children and put groceries in the fridge. We think it’s hypocritical for Anchor to claim to be an iconic San Francisco brand but create conditions that make it impossible for their workers to survive here.”

Dramatic rollout

After workers presented their union letter to management, they kicked-off a public outreach campaign that marshaled over 60 Anchor workers, community members, DSA and ILWU activists for a rally at the 24th Street BART Plaza in San Francisco’s Mission District. Following the rally, volunteers fanned out throughout the neighborhood to visit bars in the area that served Anchor Steam beer.

The goal was to generate support for the union campaign from customers, bartenders, and owners. Many bars agreed to display posters showing their support for Anchor workers. During the following weekends, workers coordinated more outreach events in several neighborhoods on both sides of the Bay.

Union busting campaign

Company officials publicly pledged to remain neutral in the union drive, but it soon became obvious that they had retained the services of an anti-union consulting firm. The company forced brewery workers at the plant and service workers at the Public Taps into separate bargaining units. Despite the company’s effort, workers in both groups have said they intend to bargain in parallel for identical contracts.

The company held “captive-audience” meetings where workers were forced to watch anti-union presentations that were full of lies and misinformation, a tactic consultants use to confuse and scare workers away from voting for the union. Two workers were forced by managers to remove union buttons during their shifts – triggering charges filed against Anchor by the ILWU.

Initial vote postponed

An electrical fire in the brewery during late February resulted in the NLRB granting the company a postponement of the election. The company used the extra time to intensify their anti-union campaign holding one-on-one and two-on-one meetings where managers told workers that wages and promotions could be frozen for two to three years if the union drive was successful.


Workers also organized union “drink-ins” at the Anchor Public Taps where union members and community supporters gathered to enjoy Anchor Steam beer and express their solidarity with the organizing effort. One Friday event was scheduled in the afternoon to coincide with the quitting time for Building Trades workers. Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), who were repairing the plant’s electrical fire damage, were among those who attended.

The Anchor Public Taproom was filled with pro-union chants as attendees cheered in solidarity. At one point, the company’s new Chief Operating Officer came to see what was happening and share a beer with union supporters.

Positive campaign

Belden said the Organizing Committee kept the campaign message positive. They emphasized the pride Anchor workers had for their work, for San Francisco and for the Anchor brand.

This connection to the city was captured by the hashtag #AnchoredInSF that workers used to promote their social media campaign.

“This felt like a community campaign,” said Garrett Kelly. “We received positive feedback from everyone, whether we were out putting up posters, or wearing our union button and getting positive comments from people on public transportation. I feel like the campaign resonated with people.”

Building relationships

Belden said the key to their success was strong relationships in the workplace.

“Build good relationships with your co-workers. That would be my advice,” Belden said. “We never made any promises to anyone. All we told people is that we are just trying to get a voice. People trusted us because we weren’t selling them the sky.”

Political allies

The Anchor campaign also attracted support from San Francisco political leaders. Workers received

their first letter of support from newly-elected county Supervisor Shamann Walton, who represents the Potrero Hill area where Anchor operates. Following the union vote, Walton visited the Anchor Public Taps to meet and congratulate workers. He followed up with a letter to management that urged the company to respect the union and negotiate a fair contract. Additional support came from Supervisors Hillary Ronen, Rafael Mandelman and Gordon Mar, who sent letters to Anchor COO Greg Newbrough, criticizing the company for breaking their promise to remain neutral during the union election process. Sapporo workers at the company’s flagship plant in Tokyo also sent a letter of solidarity. Other critical help came from leaders and members of the San Francisco Labor Council.

Contract campaign ahead

Anchor workers are now preparing for contract negotiations. Soon they will elect a Bargaining Committee along with teams to help with internal organizing and community outreach.

They also plan to conduct one-on-one conversations with co-workers, to gather surveys about priorities for the first contract.

“We want to get as many people involved in the contract campaign as possible,” Belden said. “We want people to have a voice here at Anchor.”

Kelly adds, “We’re in a strong position. I think we have a resounding mandate from the workers that this is what we want. We don’t want to tell people what they need. We want everyone to come together and decide what is important.”


Categories: Unions

IBU members & communities mobilize to save Alaska’s Marine Highway System

ILWU - Tue, 04/16/2019 - 12:24

Sending an urgent message to legislators: Ferry customers and community leaders are joining IBU members to talk with legislators at the State Capitol to save Alaska’s Marine Highway System.

When the critical public ferries operated by Alaska’s Marine Highway System (AMHS) came under attack this year, the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU) – the ILWU’s Marine Division – mobilized with community residents to fight back.

The crisis came in mid-February when Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy announced plans to slash ferry funding by 75% – betraying his campaign promise to protect the ferry system.

Essential service

The Marine Highway System was established in 1964 and now serves 32 communities, including 28 with little or no highway service. Cuts would leave residents stranded when they need to see doctors, attend school, visit family or go shopping for groceries or supplies. Airplane flights are expensive and can’t deliver the reliable, affordable service that ferries offer citizens and businesses – including commercial fishermen who depend on the vessels to ship their perishable products.

Big numbers

The AMHS carries 350,000 passengers each year, plus another 100,000 vehicles. Local residents are the main customers, outnumbering tourists more than 2-to-1. With over 200,000 Alaska residents depending on the 11 vessels operated by the Marine Highway System, the IBU began a grassroots community campaign that they call: “Save Our State” – S.O.S.”

Keeping Alaska connected

“We keep Alaska connected,” says IBU Alaska Regional Director Trina Arnold, echoing words that have become a theme for the campaign.

“Public ferries are the lifeline for dozens of communities – and the people of those communities are getting involved and speaking out to save the system.”

Broken promises

How did such a vital public service become so threatened? The answer begins with Governor Mike Dunleavy, who promised during his campaign to protect the Marine Highway System. Now, he has proposed spending $250,000 on an “economic reshaping consultant” who will consider 10 of the Governor’s “ideas,” that include giving the public ferries away to a private operator, raising fares, cutting services, and renegotiating union contracts to pay workers less.

Slippery mix of oil and politics

The Governor’s extreme ideas are shaped by a slippery mix of oil and politics that began decades ago. Alaska was blessed with abundant oil and gas deposits that surpassed mining and timber revenues by the late 1960s. When massive oilfields on the North Slope were connected by the trans-Alaska pipeline in the 1970’s – production skyrocketed, along with state revenues, because lawmakers in 1959 wisely decided to tax every barrel that came out of the ground. Oil revenues became so high that Alaska was able to substitute oil taxes for state sales or income taxes that most states use.

Annual oil checks

In 1976, politicians took another step that linked the state’s fate to oil by creating the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD). The Fund was created to heal political wounds from the trans-Alaska pipeline battle – and create a kind of state savings account for future investments that would be there when oil revenues declined. Politicians soon demanded the Fund to write checks for every Alaska resident, sometimes amounting to thousands of dollars per check. The arrangement made politicians look good, the money seemed free, and it solidified public support behind the oil industry.

Everything seemed fine until the inevitable happened and oil production declined. Alaska oil peaked in 1988 when 2 million barrels came out of the ground and now it’s dropped by two-thirds, which has collapsed tax revenue.

Governor’s solution: deep cuts

The state budget that depends so heavily on oil revenue now faces a fiscal crisis. Despite the new reality, Governor Dunleavy campaigned on increasing the PFD checks. The Governor also brought on a hired gun, Donna Arduin, to direct his Office of Management and Budget (OMB). She has a history of consulting on other state budgets, including Florida’s where she was accused of “cherry-picking” facts, creative mathematics and flawed methodologies – tactics that appear designed to further an anti-tax and privatization of government services agenda.

A convenient crisis

Alaska’s “budget crisis” is serving as a convenient excuse to justify giving public services to private, corporate operators who stand to make a profit. It also provides a way to eliminate public transportation to vulnerable communities.

When legislators asked non-partisan economists at the University of Alaska for budget analysis, they were told that the Governor’s cuts could destroy 14,000-17,000 full-time jobs.

Save the System

“Saving the Marine Highway System is crucial, not only to save the livelihoods of our 400 members but to save the public transportation system for so many Alaskans,” says IBU President Marina Secchitano. “We are using all our resources to save our system including the ILWU Organizing Department, and IBU members up and down the coast. This is where being a National Union demonstrates our strength – it’s essential for all of us to pitch-in for campaigns like this.”

Organizing the campaign

The IBU’s “S-O-S” campaign is being directed by Alaska Regional Director Trina Arnold, with the complete engagement of the Executive Committee and membership.

“It’s been non-stop for us, but there’s so much at stake for hundreds of IBU members – and hundreds of thousands of Alaska residents in those remote communities,” said Arnold during a break while visiting legislators in the State Capitol.

“We’re trying to get everyone involved and stay coordinated,” noting that they are working with a state grassroots labor/community alliance, and recently attended a meeting with other unions hosted by the Juneau Labor Council and State AFL-CIO.

Focus on legislators

The S-O-S campaign effort went public when state legislators held budget hearings in early March to consider the Governor’s proposed cuts. “Legislators are eager to hear what we have to say. They are looking for solutions, and we have many ideas for them to consider” says Arnold. “This is not a sprint, but more like a marathon and we are gearing up for it.”

Mobilization time

The S-O-S campaign’s first major mobilization happened on Friday, March 8, when coordinated actions took place in Bellingham, Ketchikan, and Juneau. Turnout was impressive, with support from elected officials, business owners and other unions who joined with IBU and ILWU members.

Bellingham’s Port Commission

passed a strongly-worded resolution emphasizing how the Alaska Marine Highway’s southern terminal has benefitted the local economy – boosting small businesses and creating dozens of good-paying jobs.

Positive media coverage

The actions in Ketchikan and Juneau were designed to raise awareness about the Governor’s threats to destroy the Marine Highway. Clever signs carried by activists on busy street corners helped gain positive media coverage that alerted the broader public.

Attending budget hearings

Trina Arnold says the S-O-S campaign aims to mobilize community leaders and union members, then connect them with legislators who will decide how to handle the Governor’s budget cuts. Legislative committee hearings are now filled with concerned citizens and union members.

Governor’s Response

Because the first round of public budget hearings attracted large numbers of concerned citizens and growing anxiety among legislators – including those in his own party – the Governor sought help from the extremist, Koch- funded group, “Americans for Prosperity.”

They cooked up a “road show” with closed-door meetings featuring the Governor and his hand-picked panel of supporters to justify the controversial budget cuts – including the destruction of the Marine Highway. Inside the meetings, only pre-screened and reserved guests can attend, and they aren’t allowed to ask questions – only submit comments on hand-picked cards.

Alaska’s AFL-CIO and local labor councils are organizing protests outside the Governor’s “road shows,” including events in Anchorage, Wasilla, and Fairbanks.

Presence at the Capitol

The S-O-S campaign is focusing on the State Capitol where they held a noontime BBQ on March 20th that drew hundreds of activists and got positive media attention. The following day, S-O-S mobilized a record number of people – over 600 – for a Transportation Subcommittee meeting where testimony lasted more than a week.

As The Dispatcher was going to press, the IBU was gearing-up for a Community Lobby Day on March 28, hoping to draw representatives from many of the 32 communities that depend on the Marine Highway – so they can talk with legislators and staff.

Wild card of privatization

Besides stopping the budget cuts, the IBU has to head-off a “public corporation” scheme being encouraged by the Southeast Conference, a body created decades ago to establish the Marine Highway that has recently lobbied for privatization via a “public corporation” model that would use state funding.

“It comes down to just another way of packaging privatization,” says Marina Secchitano. “The best way to protect Alaska’s communities is to keep the Marine Highway public and make sure it’s fairly-funded – which sounds simple, but requires the fight of our lives to achieve.”

Categories: Unions

Newest automation plan hits a nerve with LA Port communities

ILWU - Tue, 04/16/2019 - 11:34

Marching for good jobs: Thousands of concerned community leaders and ILWU members signed petitions, marched down San Pedro streets and attended a four-hour Port Commission meeting on March 21 to voice concerns about new automation proposed at Terminal 400.

Being one of the nation’s largest and most efficient ports has long been a source of pride, good jobs, and prosperity for working-class communities surrounding the mega-port complex of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Despite hard work that set cargo-handling records for the last three years in a row, corporations continue proposing automation projects to replace dockworkers with robots.

Automation at APM/Maersk

The latest controversy involves a plan by the world largest shipping company – Maersk – to automate their gigantic APM Terminal 400 at the Port of Los Angeles. The fear is that hundreds of jobs will permanently disappear and hurt surrounding communities where families, businesses, service providers and charities depend on good-paying port jobs.

Massive community response

The automation plan at Terminal 400 would be the third, though much larger scale, during the past five years to trade jobs for robots. The prospect of more automation pushed thousands of concerned community members to take action on March 21. The day began with an early-morning rally in San Pedro, followed by a march through the streets that led to a massive public hearing with LA’s Port Commission. The Port’s large headquarters couldn’t handle the huge crowd, so arrangements were made ahead to meet in the nearby Cruise Terminal baggage tent, where most of the 1750 chairs were filled during nearly four hours of testimony and debate.

Port Commission hearing

Automation was on the agenda because Local 13 President Mark Mendoza appealed what Port staff described as the routine approval of an environmental permit at a January 24 Commission meeting. Approving that permit would have cleared the way for automation work to proceed at Terminal 400. The basis for the union’s appeal, and requests for approval by APM/Maersk officials, their attorney, and the PMA employer group, quickly developed into a broader discussion about the impact of automation on the community.

Strong union support

Local 13 Vice President Gary Herrera set the stage by focusing debate on how job losses would impact people and businesses from surrounding communities. He said that the ILWU/PMA contract issues involving automation should be addressed between the union and employers – not Port Commissioners – as the union’s focus is community-based. Initial testimony from union leaders included strong statements by Local 91 President Danny Miranda, Local 63 President Joe Gasperov, Pensioner President Greg Mitre, along with Local 13 members Mark Jurisich and Ray Familathe. A contingent of Teamsters were on hand to lend their support, as were representatives from the California Nurses’ Association (CNA) and several staffers from the community-labor support group, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE).

Political leaders weigh-in

Elected officials added their unanimous support for good jobs, including Councilmember Joe Buscaino who said he may bring the issue before LA’s City Council. County Supervisor Janice Hahn criticized the company for cloaking their automation plan with claims of environmental concern because they plan to use electric vehicles. “We don’t have to decide between good jobs and clean air,” she said, “we can have both.”

Long Beach Community College Board member Vivian Malauulu’s testimony was followed by statements of support read from two Congressmembers and more than a dozen state legislators, including Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.

Small business owners testified that automation and the loss of good jobs will hurt local businesses and the customers they serve. John Bagakis of Big Nick’s Pizza told Commissioners about the donations and support he now provides to families and workers in need, something he said would be hard to continue if he loses business from dockworkers. Sandra Marchioli of Godmother’s Saloon made a similar point.

Shoulder to shoulder: The ILWU International Officers and Coast Committeemen stood firmly behind Local 13’s Vice President Gary Herrea and Local 13 President Mark Medoza as Herrera addressed the LA Port Commission.

Mayor could play a role

Perhaps the most important statement read at the meeting came from LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, who asked Port Commissioners to consider delaying any action until mid-April. He also offered to mediate discussions in the meantime and encouraged both sides to look for compromises. Commissioners seemed receptive to the Mayor’s offer.

Commissioners weigh-in

Response and comments from Port Commissioners ranged from cool diplomacy to expressions of support and solidarity for the plight facing workers and the community. Commissioner Diane Middleton, recently appointed by Mayor Garcetti to fill the seat held by former ILWU President David Arian until his untimely passing in early January, posed some of the sharpest and most effective questions.

She was joined by Commissioner Anthony Pirozzi, Jr., who asked if automation might encourage a “race to the bottom” and said a “transition plan” might be needed to help workers. He also asked a question that was on the minds of many: “why can’t we clean the air by having people drive electric vehicles on the docks?”

Surprising study finding

One of the most important facts to emerge at the hearing came from an unexpected source: a 2018 report by McKinsey & Company – a premier global management consulting firm. Their report titled, “The Future of Automated Ports,” concluded that companies shouldn’t expect to recover automation costs that were unlikely to pay for themselves. The report indicated that companies may lose money in the short run. Even more important were the opinions of port executives who were interviewed by the study’s authors, concluding that fully automated ports are generally not as productive as ones operated by humans.

This could be disappointing news for the Ports of LA and Long Beach who invested heavily and provided generous subsidies for two previous terminal automation projects – based on claims that productivity and through-put would exceed human operations. This means present investments may not be justifiable from a market standpoint, in addition to humanitarian concerns.

Concluding arguments

The final appeal for Commissioners to reject the company’s permit application and automation effort was presented by Local 13 Vice President Gary Herrera – who approached the podium surrounded by ILWU officers, including International President Willie Adams, Vice President Bobby Olvera, Jr., Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris, Coast Committeemen Frank Ponce De Leon and Cam Williams, ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton, Local 13 President Mark Mendoza, Local 63 President Joe Gasperov, Local 94 President Danny Miranda and Local 13 LRC Rep Mike Dimon.

“The issue of automation is bigger than the ILWU-PMA contract,” said Herrera, “it’s about the community, the economy and ultimately the future of the middle class.” He continued with a line that hit a chord with most in the room: “Robots do not pay taxes, robots do not shop in our communities, robots do not pay rent, they don’t buy homes, they don’t lease office space, they don’t deposit money, robots do not vote.”

Voting for more time

The meeting concluded with Commissioners embracing Mayor Garcetti’s offer to mediate and search for different approaches. What those might be wasn’t clear as The Dispatcher went to press in late March, but future issues will update this important story.

Categories: Unions

Anchor workers organize at craft brewery

ILWU - Tue, 03/12/2019 - 15:47

Campaign launch: Workers at Anchor Brewing in San Francisco launched their union effort with supporters who visited customers and small businesses on February 7. Anchor is hammering workers with an anti-union campaign before the March 6th union election. Photo by Otto Pippenger

Workers who make one of the nation’s best-known craft beers – Anchor Steam – are organizing to join the ILWU. Their grassroots, home-grown campaign is filled with energy and attracting national headlines because craft brews are hot, profitable and popular with young people. If the Anchor workers vote for the union on March 6th, they’ll join the ILWU and be some of the first craft brewery workers to organize.

Unlike most craft brewers, Anchor has deep roots. They were founded in San Francisco more than a century ago in 1896. But they’ve also been swept along with many new craft brews that have been bought by big corporate players. Anchor was purchased in 2017 by Japan’s Sapporo for $85 million.

In recent years, wages, benefits and working conditions at Anchor went from relatively generous to skimpy. Employee Garrett Kelly says he joined the company three years ago, starting at $15.50, with 180 hours of paid sick leave and 45 minute paid lunches. Retirement was a 401(k), not a pension, but the company matched 3% of what he contributed. Now the match has been taken away, lunch is down to 30 minutes and half their sick-time has disappeared. Looking back, some employees remember five years ago when the starting pay was over $17 an hour.

“It’s a tale as old as time — it’s just a concentration of wealth at the top with a complete disregard for workers,” Kelly told a reporter. Another thing mentioned by many workers is the increased time they spend commuting to work because low wages and the lack of affordable housing is pushing them and other families out of the city.

When a majority of the sixty or so brewery workers decided it was time to do something, they reached out to the ILWU after considering other unions. Before that step, they contacted the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) San Francisco Chapter, which is full of young activists including some craft beer workers. They’re savvy about public media, public relations and know how to organize actions that are fun and effective. Their organizing campaign was launched in the Mission District’s nightclub area, where dozens of workers and volunteers visited local bars to chat-up patrons, bartenders, owners and snag selfies that were posted with the hashtags #anchorunion and #anchoredinsf. Sapporo management first responded by promising to remain “neutral,” but has now hired union-busting consultants and is forcing workers to attend anti-union lectures. Some workers have been told to remove their union buttons but most brewery workers are proudly wearing theirs.

“We’re prepared for the company’s anti-union campaign,” said union supporters Ryan Enright and Bruce Belden. “We’re keeping everyone informed about the usual lies and distortions from union busters.”

Anchor workers are also embracing the spirit of solidarity by reaching out to support other worker organizing campaigns, including employees at the nearby San Francisco Veterinary Specialists animal hospital. They also held actions during San Francisco’s official “Beer Week.” The Dispatcher will feature an update about their campaign and election in the March issue.

Categories: Unions

Fred Pecker: passionate “rebel with a cause” led Local 6 through successful organizing campaigns

ILWU - Wed, 03/06/2019 - 10:28

Recycling justice: Fred Pecker on the steps of Oakland City Hall at a rally for Alameda County recycling workers. The campaign brought together labor, environmental and religious leaders to transform wages and conditions for East Bay
recycling workers.

Fred Pecker, who led Local 6 members through difficult times by helping workers organize, win strikes and fight for immigrant rights, passed on December 20, 2018, following a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Challenging times

Pecker joined the ILWU in 1985 after getting hired at Guittard Chocolate when Local 6 had several thousand members, a small fraction of the 19,000 workers on the books in 1946. The first decline came in 1950 after Teamster officials spent $1 million to raid Local 6 warehouses and attack ILWU leaders as “unpatriotic communists.” The second drop began in the 1970’s as companies moved from the Bay Area to exploit low-wage labor, first in Mexico, then China. When those foreign-made goods arrived in containers to West Coast docks, most bypassed ILWU warehouses in favor of non-union facilities in California’s Central Valley, Inland Empire or the deserts of California and Nevada, where unions were scarce. That process was still underway when Pecker emerged as a new leader at Local 6 while another 12 shops closed and 800 union jobs vanished in three years from 1991-1994.

Humble beginnings

Pecker’s first Local 6 job at Guittard involved cleaning-up piles of chocolate that spilled onto the factory floor. “I was on graveyard and would walk around with a tray and scraper. Chocolate was just coming out of packings on the tanks and oozing down the sides of machines. It was beautiful.” His wife, Susan Solomon added, “It was the only job where he came home smelling better than when he left.”

Radical roots

Organizing messengers: Fred Pecker speaking at a press conference drawing attention to the dangerous conditions for San Francisco’s bike messengers who organized to join Local 6.

Fred Jonas grew up in a working-class neighborhood of Queens, New York, which he said was “kind of like where Archie Bunker lived,” referring to the conservative, working-class television character in the 1970’s sitcom, “All in the Family.” Unlike Archie, Pecker’s family had radical roots that included socialist grandparents who immigrated from Europe. His father Calman and mother Sylvia joined the American Communist Party when they were young, but quit after becoming disillusioned. Both remained strong union supporters and were active in their teacher unions. Pecker said his mother “told us if we ever crossed a picket line we were going to have some broken legs – and she was a non-violent person!” His father “kept everything inside” and “wasn’t a real communicative person,” because of trauma suffered during WWII, when he was sent behind Nazi lines to scout during the bitter-cold battles of the Rhine and famous bridge at Remagen.

“Be with people”

Despite reticence, Fred’s father conveyed sage advice about how his son could be an effective radical. “He used to tell me that going out at night with a bucket of paint and writing something on a wall wasn’t going to start a revolution. He said that it takes being with people.” His parents also emphasized the importance of unions and solidarity, saying, “the only way we get anything in life is by sticking together.”

A 14-year-old Teamster

Using that advice, Pecker began working with union members at a young age, learning about people and unions. He got his first summer job on a Manhattan street-corner “shape-up,” where temp workers were hired for short-term positions at Teamster warehouses and delivery routes. Although he was only 14-years-old, Pecker worked 16-hour days and soaked up information about the Teamsters Union from seasoned union men who taught him what they knew, including unsavory details such as payoffs that were part of the job. These early warehouse and delivery jobs continued during his middle and high school years, and became useful when Pecker explored a career in teaching.

Falling in love

ILWU International President Willie
Adams joined family and friends to celebrate the life of former Local 6 Sec-Treasurer Fred Pecker.

In 1977, Pecker was taking education classes at New York’s State University in Buffalo where he was joined by Susan Solomon. The two had met over a decade earlier because their parents were friends, political allies, and worked as teachers. Fred and Susan fell in love, started living together when Fred was 18, and married two years later. Susan’s parents and grandparents were San Francisco natives and political radicals. Those views cost her father a public school teaching job when he refused to sign a “loyalty oath” that required him to renounce his leftwing political views. Such oaths were eventually weakened by the courts, but destroyed many families and caused suicides during the 1950’s.

Teaching and learning

After Fred and Sue finished their teacher training, they thought about moving to San Francisco, but Fred was deeply connected to New York. Sue spent their final years in New York getting a Master’s degree in Education and working at a co-op nursery school while Fred worked at an early childhood center in the South Bronx, one of the state’s poorest neighborhoods. The staff at his center was in the middle of a campaign to win a better union contract. Pecker jumped into the conversations, sit-ins and street actions. He experienced his first union defeat at his next job where teachers helping children with parents caught in the criminal court system tried to organize a union. That drive ended when some union activists were fired. “I learned that it’s kind of hard to tell people to put your ass out on the line, if you don’t have somebody who’s standing with you or unless everybody’s ready to walk,” he concluded. Soon after they moved to San Francisco.

Coming to California

When they arrived in San Francisco in 1983, both took classroom teaching positions with low-income preschoolers at the Head Start program, and immediately began organizing parents and fellow teachers to improve conditions by forming a union. The campaign was successful and workers eventually secured a contract, but management responded by firing Sue for being pregnant with their son Herschel – something that was illegal but common 45 years ago. Fred remained a while longer but was later forced to resign. With both out of work and a baby on the way, they badly needed a job. Sue’s family was in a position to help, thanks to deep ILWU roots that included uncle Leroy King and the Patton family who had worked in distribution and warehouses for decades. Pecker got some casual work on the waterfront but it wasn’t enough.

“I was looking for work and Leroy King sent me to the Local 6 hiring hall where I registered with Henry McKnight, who was the Business Agent,” explained Pecker. “Henry had a good enough relationship with Guittard Chocolate that he was able to send people to work there and he got me a job.”

Connections with Leroy King

Early morning picket: Fred Pecker (left) at an early morning picket for recycling workers at RockTenn in Concord, CA.

The connection to Leroy King was important, but Pecker also proved himself and became a leader in his own right. Their leadership styles were different, but Pecker always held enormous respect for King, who managed to survive many decades of ugly racism and political attacks. During the 1950’s, uncle Leroy and aunt Judy had been hounded without mercy by the FBI for having joined the Communist Party. Their inter-racial marriage caused them to be evicted from many San Francisco apartments. While King later softened his radical politics, he remained connected to Local 6, was a player in the ILWU, a fixture at the city’s Labor Council, and San Francisco’s longest-serving city commissioner until he passed in 2015 at the age of 91.

Rising from the ranks

Pecker had only worked a few years at Guittard Chocolate when he was elected Chief Steward. Soon after, he was elected a Convention Delegate and Trustee. In 1991 he was elected to be a full-time business agent, helping workers at Guittard and dozens of other shops. He helped organize social activities with workers and their families, using picnics and holiday parties to build solidarity. The overwhelming challenge of that era involved “runaway shops,” a process Pecker said was “in full swing” when he became a new leader in the 1980’s and early 90’s. The coffee industry, once a mainstay of Local 6, had been hit hard with closures at Folgers, Hills Brothers, S&W and Safeway. Liquor warehouses such as Hiram Walker were also moving away, along with massive paper and printing supply warehouses that once served the vanishing Bay Area printing trades. Besides seeking lower-wages, many companies were victimized by “leveraged buy-outs,” a process developed by Wall Street to acquire profitable companies, bury them in debt, then sell-off parts of the business to make a profit – often killing the original company in the process.

No help from politicians

Pecker said, “these were not situations where the company was looking for a way to stay in business. The companies had made a business decision and just wanted to keep things calm until they shut.” Local politicians were sympathetic but had no power. Presidents Reagan and Bush did nothing during their terms while thousands of factories closed each year. Congress finally passed a weak law called the “WARN Act” in 1988, but it merely required large plants to notify workers 60 days before closing. Bill Clinton was elected in 1992 as a “New Democrat” who made a priority of courting wealthy donors, corporate executives and Wall Street bankers to lobby for his NAFTA “free trade” agreement with Mexico. Workers and unions were largely ignored.

Pensions become defining issue

The larger economic and political changes hurt all unions, including members at Local 6, where the once-powerful “Master Warehouse Agreement” was jointly negotiated with the Teamsters following a truce reached decades earlier with the rival business-friendly union. Local 6’s pension plan was also hurt because fewer active workers were supporting the plan’s growing number of pensioners. Most Local 6 leaders were reluctant to discuss the pension problem because there was no easy solution. The problem could be ignored, but it was only growing worse. Benefits could be cut, but nobody wanted that. The third alternative, which Pecker supported, was to organize more workers into Local 6 to make the union stronger and improve the pension plan. This was the option Pecker favored, but he got little support from other Local 6 leaders because organizing was so difficult, risky and could destabilize the Local 6 political order.

Choosing to organize

Pecker organized new call centers in the Bay Area that hired people to raise funds for non-profit and progressive political causes. He worked with the International Union on an innovative campaign to help bike messengers organize – a campaign Fred enjoyed because of the colorful characters involved and unconventional tactics they employed. But the largest and most successful campaign was one developed with the International Union to help workers build power in the East Bay waste and recycling industry. Local 6 already represented some workers in the industry, but hundreds more were still unorganized – and many of the existing contracts were lacking. Pecker wisely began the campaign by organizing to improve the existing waste contracts, believing those struggles would develop new leaders and organizing skills among the rank-and-file. The next step called for Local 6 members with those improved recycling contracts to help organize their non-union counterparts in the East Bay.

Recycling workers campaign

Pecker’s ambitious plan came together on February 2, 2013 when 150 workers and family members filled the Local 6 hall in Oakland for a historic “Convention of Recycling Workers.” The event was conducted mostly in Spanish and chaired by rank-and-file recycling workers. Union officials, including Pecker and International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams, took a lower profile. A wide range of special guests attended, including new allies from the environmental movement and supportive politicians. A Catholic Diocese leader pledged his support and recalled that his own father had been a member of Local 6 many decades ago and had joined militant organizing campaigns to win improvements.

Historic Convention

Pecker spoke briefly, outlining a vision to transform the recycling industry throughout the East Bay with good wages, benefits and new rights, including health and safety protections. The State’s top two OSHA officials attended and supported the campaign. Pecker emphasized that a militant approach was needed, and the plan was adopted by everyone present.

There were many challenges, including large numbers of undocumented immigrant workers who were eager to fight for the union, but vulnerable to employers calling-in “la migra” to punish troublemakers. Immigration experts spoke at the Convention and stayed afterward to address those concerns. Another problem involved the Teamsters Union that represented East Bay waste drivers and had secured good-paying jobs for members. They initially supported the recycling workers’ campaign, then collaborated with waste companies to prevent recycling workers from winning dramatic improvements.

Trouble with Teamsters

Tensions with East Bay Teamsters had flared earlier in 2007, when ILWU’s predominantly low-wage female, Latina workforce at Waste Management honored Teamster and Machinist Union picket lines. This was when the Teamsters were locked-out for more than three weeks. ILWU members stood firm despite having no warning, no savings and no right to unemployment insurance. Promises by Teamster officials to protect Local 6 from company retaliation never materialized. Without support from the Teamsters or Machinists Union, Waste Management went ahead and retaliated against Local 6 by outsourcing dozens of call-center jobs and suing the ILWU for supporting the lock-out. Pecker was furious, but there was little he could do.

An impressive victory

Despite these and many other challenges, Pecker prevailed in leading a successful campaign in multiple cities that transformed the East Bay recycling and waste industry – raising standards and putting hundreds of workers and families on a path out of poverty. New contracts were signed, more workers joined Local 6 and existing contracts were strengthened.


While Teamster officials failed to stop recycling workers from winning these dramatic improvements, Pecker continued to have concerns, noting that Teamsters had recruited a former Local 6 official with better pay – allowing them to monitor internal issues at Local 6 and quietly intervene on occasions, including during the recycling campaign. Pecker recalled how similar tactics were used by Teamsters during their 1950 raids against Local 6, and more recently at Local 17 where they recruited a former ILWU official with a good-paying job who then encouraged workers to leave the ILWU and affiliate with the Teamsters. At Local 6, mounting problems with the pension provided a new opening for the Teamsters, who held meetings with Local 6 members who were told they could join the better-funded Teamster pension – if Local 6 workers would agree to transfer control of their Master contract from the ILWU to the Teamsters, which eventually happened. It was a bitter pill for Pecker, who tried but failed to rally support for an organizing strategy that would strengthen the Local 6 pension and avoid a future Teamster takeover.

Another setback occurred when Pecker lost his reelection bid by two dozen votes for Secretary-Treasurer in 2017. He’d held the top post at Local 6 for five terms, beginning in 1997 when he defeated a controversial incumbent. Following the ILWU tradition, Pecker returned to his job at the Guittard chocolate factory where he started 34 years before. He remained active in the SF Labor Council, the

ILWU Northern California District Council and Jobs with Justice. He had continued to be a fixture on picket lines and protests, where he met and made hundreds of friends during his three decades in the Bay Area Labor movement.

Love of music

Besides his love for unions and devotion to social justice, Pecker was passionate about music. He played the electric bass and performed with the ILWU Blues Band at union events during the late 1980’s and early 90’s. Pecker said he believed “music is something that brings us together,” and was fond of quoting the pioneering radical Emma Goldman, who once said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want your revolution.” His taste in music was wide-ranging and detailed, including familiarity with obscure blues artists from the Mississippi Delta, Memphis, Kansas City and Chicago. He was familiar with performers in West Africa and groups in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Brazil. He had a deep love for all forms of African-American music, including gospel, soul, rhythm & blues and funk – but was especially devoted to jazz and had an encyclopedic knowledge of players along with a massive recording collection, which he donated along with his musical instruments and equipment to the Oaktown Jazz program that trains and mentors young jazz players in Oakland.

Recognition and reflection

Pecker was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer in the Spring of 2018 and enrolled in experimental drug trials, but ended chemotherapy when the cancer failed to respond. He received dozens of friends and family members at his home in San Francisco’s St. Francis Square – a cooperative housing project of 300 units sponsored by the ILWU in 1963 that was the first racially-integrated site in San Francisco. He remained at home during his final months and days, living with his wife Susan, son Herschel and daughter Naomi. Pecker was unable to attend the ILWU 37th Convention in June, 2018, where delegates in Portland unanimously passed a resolution to “honor, recognize and celebrate his characteristic determination, grace, good humor and concern for others.

You have stood strong with us, Brother Pecker, and we now stand with you and your family during this challenging time.”

San Francisco’s Labor Council honored Pecker a few days later with their own resolution praising his decades of service to the labor movement. Similar honors were bestowed by San Francisco officials who welcomed him to City Hall on December 4, 2018, during a meeting of the Board of Supervisors, who presented a special resolution praising Pecker’s decades of devotion to worker justice. It was his final public appearance; he passed peacefully surrounded by family on December 20, 2018.

Celebrating his life

A celebration of Pecker’s life brought hundreds to Local 10’s Memorial Hall on February 23, 2019. The event reflected the breadth and depth of his many friends and followers. Musicians from the Oaktown Jazz project played and sang. Family and friends shared stories, honored his many contributions, and shed a few tears. ILWU International President Willie Adams attended the event and praised Pecker as “a man of courage and principles who helped transform Local 6 and got it on track.” Pecker is survived by his wife and lifelong partner, Susan Anne Solomon, son Herschel Simon Pecker and his partner Courtney Elise Hight, and daughter Naomi Clara Solomon and son-in-law Bradley Ryan Allen – in addition to many loving aunts uncles, cousins, cousins-in-law, and chosen family, without whom his family tree would have been incomplete.

Categories: Unions

30 ILWU members attend 8th annual ‘Women Build Nations’ conference in Seattle

ILWU - Mon, 03/04/2019 - 11:59

A record number of rank and- file women attended last year’s “Women Build Nations” conference in Seattle on October 12-14. The annual event aims to support women who are already working or training to become members of 14 different building trade unions that operate in the US and Canada. While not part of the National Association of Building Trades Unions (NABTU), the ILWU women who attended were warmly welcomed and encouraged to participate.

“Some ILWU women have attended this conference in the past on their own, but this was the first time that we attended as a recognized union,” said Fran Grove of Local 94. “It’s important for our union to be included at this level because we move construction equipment and materials that make it possible for other women in the trades to build nations.” Grove organized ILWU attendees by mailing letters to locals and by reaching out to sisters via social media. She was also the point person who contracted NABTU on behalf of the ILWU delegation. Thousands of women attended the three-day conference that unofficially opened on Friday with a community service project coordinated by Habitat for Humanity. Several ILWU women volunteered for the effort that built four small houses for Seattle’s homeless.

“It was truly amazing to work side-by-side with ladies from the building trades who helped people get off the streets,” said Vanetta Hamlin from Local 10. “I learned some new construction skills, and refined my skills in team building!” Hamlin is the Records Clerk at her local. An opening reception on Friday night featured buffets, speakers, and live entertainment – plus a preview of what was coming in the next two days.

“Friday night really set the stage for the rest of the conference,” said Maria Adame from Local 13. “Women from all over the country attended and I really wanted to get to know them.” Adame is the first female crane trainer lead on the west coast. Saturday morning began with a plenary session that featured prominent speakers from various governmental agencies that enforce workplace safety and health laws. The morning’s highlight was a session with Kayleen McCabe, a general contractor who stars in the reality TV show, “DYI.” She dazzled her audience with humorous anecdotes about working as a union construction expert who stars in her own weekly show.

After lunch, members from each union were asked to stand. The ILWU was the last union called, but the sisters from our locals were probably the loudest, especially when the emcee added the W-O when she said International Longshore and Warehouse-WO-men! The applause was thunderous! Later that afternoon, almost 3,000 women took to the streets of downtown Seattle, making an impressive banner parade that culminated with a rally at Westlake Park, five blocks from the Washington State convention center where we were meeting. Each union was represented by sisters who chanted and cheered old and new labor songs while proudly displaying their union banners. The parade seemed to grow stronger as each of us gained confidence from being there with so many participants. It’s important to note that our parade was supported by family members, including other men, women and children who marched with us and remained for the rally.

“The parade was both a testament of solidarity and demonstration of camaraderie among women from all different unions,” said Stef Flores, a member of Local 54 in Stockton, CA, who also serves as an International Representative to the ILWU Canada Young Workers Committee. “I just had to stand there to take in the fact that we’re all part of a larger movement.”

Besides the general sessions and plenary meetings, there were many smaller break-out sessions for topics that included 12-Step Meetings, union caucuses, group exercises, a musical jam session, and a double feature movie at night. Optional registration was required for a special task force on issues facing women at the national level, including a political action clinic and policy forum. Other workshops held throughout the weekend covered topics including health & safety, getting involved in union leadership, strategies to make change in the workplace, mental health and dealing with pressures on the job.

“Female ILWU workers have everything in common with women in the traditional building trades, except for how we are hired into our union,” said Grove. “We deal with the same issues and endure the same hardships as any woman working in the predominantly male industry. That’s why it’s so important for us to interact with women from other trades, so that we can learn from each other.” Grove plans to use the WBN model to organize a conference exclusively for ILWU women. A planning committee is pending with representatives from every local. Grove notes that the biggest obstacle will be securing funding to enable women from every ILWU local to participate and attend.

“It will take a lot of work from our sisters and a lot of support from our brothers, but it can be done,” said Grove. The ILWU Women’s Conference is tentatively set for San Francisco in March of 2020.

Vivian Malauulu
Local 13

Categories: Unions

Keith Shanklin: Local 34’s first African-American president

ILWU - Mon, 03/04/2019 - 11:22

Historic election: Keith Shanklin was elected as the first African-American president of ILWU Local 34. Before joining the ILWU as a casual in 1996, Shanklin served in the US Navy. He was stationed on board the aircraft carrier Enterprise during the filming of the movie, “Top Gun” and appears in several scenes.

Sitting in his office, newly elected ILWU Local 34 President Keith Shanklin recalls the first time that he saw the working waterfront. “I remember going to an amusement park in Long Beach called the Pike which had a view of the Port,” Shanklin said. He remembered looking out and seeing the cranes and rows of containers. “Of course I had no idea then that this industry would become my life and make me what I am today.”  Shanklin would become the first African-American President of Local 34 when members elected him their president on January 17th.

In 1996, Shanklin began his longshore career as a casual at Local 10. He entered the industry through the lottery system after completing a 12-year hitch in the Navy as an aircraft mechanic. He still remembers the day that he struggled out of bed with a high fever in order to wait in line and enter the lottery. After winning the lottery and starting to get occasional work as a casual, the Alameda Naval Base was closed and he had to take another job in the small town of Herlong, CA, located about 70 miles north of Reno.

Long commute

“I do believe that I had one of the longest commute of any casual,” said Shanklin. He’d drive down when the dispatch phone message said there was plenty of work and stay for several days before returning to Herlong. “I’d take any job that came up, from cleaning the parking lot to lashing a ship.” His persistence and hustle paid off when Shanklin found himself at the top of the promotion list, becoming a “B-book registrant” after working two-and- a-half years as a casual – which was fast by today’s rate. “The wait times are much longer now because the industry has changed,” he said. Back then, employers needed tractor drivers, so Shanklin and other newly-registered longshore workers immediately got heavy equipment training. He received his A-book in another year and a half. Shanklin also credits the waterfront culture for his chance to advance. He thanked more experienced workers for sharing their knowledge with him and others who were just learning. “You have to teach for another to learn,” he says. “We have to help our new brothers to come up – and not let them struggle on their own.”

Finding mentors

Early in his career, Shanklin was drawn to political activism and is grateful to those who mentored him, including Leo Robinson, Clarence Thomas, and Henry Grahm. He says they “took me under their wings and motivated me to go forward,” adding that Leo Robinson was especially helpful in teaching him about trade unionism.

Giving back

“I believe the union is here for one reason – to make sure workers have a chance to provide for their families,” Shanklin said. “I also believe that a union member has to give back to their community and their union. It’s not just about collecting your paycheck. You have to give back.  As an activist, Shanklin was an officer in the Million Worker March, a gathering of over 10,000 labor activists at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC on October 17, 2004, that was founded by Local 10 members Trent Willis, Clarence Thomas, and Leo Robinson. Shanklin also volunteered to serve on the Local 10 Executive Board and Grievance Committee. He said serving on those committees and attending educational programs put on by the Longshore Division gave him tools he needed to become an elected officer.

Transfer to Local 34

In 2002, Shanklin transferred from Local 10 to Local 34. He said he transferred to explore the clerical side and because it was less stress on the body. He excelled as a clerk because he was good with computers and at solving puzzles.
“I used to do a lot of puzzles when I was a kid, and that is basically what a clerk does. The only difference is that you are dealing with containers full of cargo that are very important to someone far away. You have to make sure you’re on top of your game.” Shanklin is also passionate about politics but took a step back more than a decade ago to focus more time on his family, but eventually returned to his activist roots.

Encouraged to step-up

He credits outgoing Local 34 President David Gonzales for encouraging him to run for his new position. “It’s a unique honor to be elected the first African-American president of this local. I appreciate the membership for putting me in this position to serve them and be the voice they need to enforce the contract. We have a strong employer who fights us tooth and nail, every single day. My job is to ensure

that we provide a good service and return home safe at the end of the day, that we continue to make this industry safer, our clerks more knowledgeable and that we pass on the ILWU tradition of solidarity to the next generation.”

Categories: Unions

ILWU members help LA Teachers win strike to improve public schools

ILWU - Fri, 02/08/2019 - 15:33

Supporting quality public schools: ILWU members participated in a solidarity campaign organized by the Southern California District Council that helped teachers in LA win a six-day strike for smaller class sizes, more nurses and
counselors, a cap on new private charter schools and greater accountability for existing charters. The community-wide effort involved hundreds of volunteers who “adopted” 63 public schools during the strike.

Los Angeles teachers won a carefully-organized six-day strike in January that will deliver smaller class sizes, more nurses and counselors, and greater accountability of private charter schools in the nation’s second largest school system.

Early challenges

Organizing for the successful strike began long before April of 2017, when bargaining officially started. The process was extra difficult because a majority of school board members had won their seats with backing from private charter school advocates who are funded by wealthy, anti-union business interests. These Board members then hired a Superintendent to negotiate with the union who had no educational experience or training – and strongly favored private charter schools.

Contract goals help the public

The union was open from the beginning about their bargaining goals because four out of their five goals were designed to improve the quality of education for students by reducing class sizes, increasing the number of nurses and counselors, adding funds for classroom supplies, placing a cap on the number of private charter schools and holding existing charter schools more accountable. The only pocketbook issue for teachers was their effort to secure a 6.5% raise.

Saving public education

The struggle by 55,000 teachers, nurses and counselors who care for 550,000 students in Los Angeles was initially discussed within the union ranks as a battle to protect public education. Union members then worked hard to spread the word about how smaller class sizes and more school nurses and counselors would benefit students. This slow, patient outreach work to talk with parents paid-off when families backed the striking teachers – because they realized that a win for the union was a win for students.

History lessons

Many of us today take public education for granted, but it only happened a century ago after decades of struggle – much of it led by the labor movement that battled to move children out of factories and off the streets into classrooms. The belief then – and now – is that quality public education helps give every American a better opportunity to succeed in life.

Protecting public schools

Several months ago, the ILWU’s Southern California District Council (SCDC) learned that another private charter school was planning to open in Wilmington. Like all private charters, they would be funded with dollars diverted from public schools. SCDC leaders immediately contacted their union brothers and sisters at the teacher’s union, the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA). The SCDC then participated in public meetings that were organized to educate and inform parents about the latest threat to public education. The Dispatcher featured a report about this meeting at the Harry Bridges Span School that included union members, parents and students. The problem with charter schools draining public resources and failing to be accountable was addressed – along with the need to support teachers in their contract negotiations.

Second meeting builds support

A few weeks later the SCDC sponsored a town hall meeting at the ILWU Memorial Association building in Wilmington, with a panel that provided an update about the teacher’s contract negotiations and efforts to cap the number of charter schools in Los Angeles. Once again, an appeal was made to build community support for the teachers’ contract bargaining.

Unions “adopt-a-school”

Once teachers voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, the SCDC began mobilizing ILWU locals in the Harbor Area and reaching out to other nearby unions. The goal was to have union members join the “adopt-a-school” program by helping at their local school during a strike. In practice, this meant picketing with teachers and ensuring that an ILWU members or other union volunteer was always on the picket line so the teachers would know that “we have your back.” It also meant bringing them food when they were marching on the picket lines. ILWU members worked with teacher union Chapter Chairs and Picket Captains to make sure picket line were staffed, fed and emotionally supported.

In total, the SCDC effort resulted in 63 schools being “adopted” in the cities of Carson, Gardena, Harbor City, Lomita, San Pedro and Wilmington. Hundreds of ILWU members participated, as did officers from Locals 13, 20, 63, 65, 68, 94, Auxiliary, Pensioners, and the SCDC – along with officials from the Marine Firemen and Steelworkers Union. The SCDC also provided signs declaring that “The ILWU supports teachers,” which were produced with donations from Locals 13 and 63.

Teachers and ILWU members stood together on those picket lines during heavy rains that fell during much of the strike. Members dug into their own pockets to donate food, ponchos and other items to help the striking teachers.

After six days of striking, the United Teachers Union reached a tentative agreement with School District Officials and quickly ratified the new contract on Tuesday, January 22, by an overwhelming margin.

Solidarity works

The was the first teachers strike in 30 years, so most participants had no experience on a picket line, and weren’t sure how to organize community support. Because the SCDC has done this many times in past, they reached out to involve other unions in the Harbor Coalition and partnered with community groups such as LAANE, which provided staffer Albert Ramirez to work with SCDC in the Harbor Area. Other groups included Reclaim Our Schools, A Needy Wilmington and South Bay Community Coalition/Thrive LA. These groups have partnered with SCDC in the past and joined this effort.

Many UTLA members expressed their gratitude to the ILWU by posting their feelings of solidarity on social media. UTLA member Michael Gearin, who teaches at the Harry Bridges Span School, said, “Thank you SO, SO much for everything you did during the strike. The ILWU kept us afloat.” He went on to say, “We were honestly just hitting our stride. I realized that the strike is only partly about the contract. I learned how valuable an opportunity it was to do community organizing and coalition building with other unions.”

Lisette Rodriguez, a California Faculty Association member at Cal State Dominquez Hills said, “You all have done an amazing job of supporting our teachers and families! Thank you for inviting me to adopt a school, I had a great experience and I’ve made friendships that will continue to grow.”

When Monica Rodriguez heard a tentative agreement had been reached, she wrote, “Thank the Lord, educators, counselors, nurses, students, parents, ILWU members and our community who stood together and supported each other. I am beyond blessed and thankful as a parent of two LAUSD students, a wife of an ILWU Local 13 member and a community volunteer.”

As an ILWU member and President of the SCDC, I want to thank all our officers, members, and community groups who stepped up to support our teachers and students. In addition, I want to thank Shannon Ross, wife of ILWU Local 94 member, Marcel Ross. She coordinated the collection and distribution of food to help the 80% of students in LA schools who are low-income and depend on food provided at schools. Thanks to Shannon and other volunteers, many of these children in the Harbor Are were fed during the strike.

It wasn’t hard for us to support this teacher’s strike and struggle. This is what we do – we help other unions and union members. Second, this is not the first time and it won’t be the last time that we come together to support our working families in our community. And finally, defending our public schools is one of the most sacred and important things we can do as union members and citizens. Thank you everyone for all that you did to help.


Cathy Familathe
SCDC President
ILWU Local 63

Categories: Unions
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