The ILWU has been advocating for a national, single-payer health plan since 1938, and remains active in that effort through a network of unions and community groups who met in New York City on January 13-15, to continue pushing for a quality, non-profit health system that would cover every American. ILWU International President Bob McEllrath assigned pensioner and longtime “single-payer” health advocate Rich Austin, Sr., to attend the meeting and represent the ILWU.
Protest to protect Medicare & jobs
Activists from around the country began their 3-day meeting with an early-evening protest against threatened Medicare and Medicaid cuts proposed by Republican leaders in the House of Representative and U.S. Senate. They convened outside Trump Tower, where the President-elect had been meeting with Congressional leaders. The Tower also hosts offices of a union-busting company, Momentive Chemical, which forced 700 workers out on strike last November by demanding huge concessions in health care benefits. Workers are resisting those take-aways despite bitter-cold days on the picket line.
Growing strength in numbers
More than 100 new participants were on hand for the opening session of the health care conference that began after the evening protest ended. The 500 attendees came from many different unions and groups including Physicians for a National Health Program and the Labor Campaign for Single Payer, which hosted the event.
Labor for Bernie continues
Invitations for a special meeting held during the conference went out to the six national unions, including the ILWU, who backed Senator Bernie Sanders for President: the Communication Workers of America, American Postal Workers Union, National Nurses United, United Electrical Workers, and the Amalgamated Transit Union. The representatives who attended felt that progressive unions should work to expand the “Labor for Bernie” network by including other national and local unions to promote “Medicare for All” and other issues raised by the Sanders campaign. A future meeting on this topic is being planned for February.
ILWU contribution noted
A contribution check from the ILWU to support the “Labor Campaign for Single Payer” effort was welcomed with applause when Rich Austin presented the donation on the second day of the conference. He noted the ILWU’s longtime support for a national healthcare system that should cover everyone, similar to the Medicare program that already covers older Americans without using expensive, profit-making insurance companies.
The conference ended with discussions about strategy, emphasizing the need to build grassroots support to protect and expand Medicare and Medicaid. After adjourning, Austin and others went to a rally at the “Wall Street Bull” statue in Bowling Green Park, an action inspired by Bernie Sanders to protect and improve America’s health care system. “Over 12 million Americans supported Bernie Sanders during the Presidential primary campaign because they liked what he said about ‘Medicare for All,’ good union jobs, and affordable college for everyone,” said Austin. “Those problems will remain front-and-center during the next four years, and we need to be involved in the process.”
Crews at Foss Tug in Long Beach escalated their fight to renew a fair contract during January. Dozens of workers represented by the Inlandboatmen’s Union, the ILWU’s Marine Division, attended a rally on January 6 in front of the Foss Long Beach headquarters on Berth 35.
Rally shows support
“The rally expressed our unity, determination to fight and willingness to win,” said John Skow, IBU Regional Director for Southern California. After a short march to the assembly area, workers heard from IBU President Alan Coté. “This is an important struggle for the entire maritime industry,” said Coté. “We’re up against a big corporation that seems more comfortable dictating than negotiating, but solidarity has always been a powerful weapon to level the playing field for workers.”
ILWU International Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe spoke on behalf of the International union. “You’ve got the entire ILWU family behind you in this struggle,” said Familathe, who noted that the union has never flinched from taking on tough fights and difficult employers. “There are a lot of people here today who are supporting this struggle,” as he recognized an impressive contingent of ILWU leaders present that included Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr., Local 63 President Paul Trani, Local 94 President Danny Miranda, Local 68 Port Pilots President Ed Royals and leaders from Ship Scalers Local 56. Representatives of the Masters, Mates and Pilots (MMP) union also attended as did members of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association (MEBA) union.
Disrespect & legal violations
The rally occurred because management at Foss Long Beach has been refusing to negotiate in good faith and continues to retaliate against 30 IBU members with lay-offs, leaving roughly 20 workers employed out of the 50-member workforce.
Implementing their ultimatum
On January 5, the company took the drastic step of implementing new schedules that eliminated the contract’s 8-hour day – requiring workers to instead remain on vessels for days at a time. They also implemented a new pay schedule without union approval. These unilateral, one-sided actions are only allowed by law if the company has engaged in good-faith negotiations, exhausted all efforts to settle, and reached an “impasse” in the contract talks – something the IBU is vigorously disputing in legal charges that have been filed against the company.
Strike in Long Beach
IBU members responded to the company’s unlawful change in contract conditions by declaring an unfair labor practices (ULP) strike on January 16. The picket lines began to form early and were humming by 6am. They continued until 6pm that evening. The next morning, company officials were notified that union members agreed to return to work, with everyone back on the job that evening. “We’ve been trying to negotiate with a company that doesn’t seem to respect the law,” said Skow. “The contract talks began more than six months ago, but we were far from an impasse and could easily reach a settlement if Foss would respect the law and show a willingness to compromise.”
Big company with deep pockets
Foss is owned by Salchuk, a wealthy conglomerate created in 1982 that has grown with both union and non-union operations. Salchuk has used this flexibility to benefit wealthy owners at the expense of workers. For example, after Foss retaliated against workers with layoffs, they were able to keep clients by re-shuffling their tug business to a Saltchuk subsidiary known as “AmNav, ”which operates at various west coast ports including LA/Long Beach – without IBU crew members.
Saltchuk workers are represented by several unions, including the Masters, Mates and Pilots (MMP), Marine Engineers Beneficial Association (MEBA) and the Seafarers International Union (SIU). The ILWU and IBU are coordinating information efforts with these unions. “In the end, the struggle here at Foss will come down to a combination of courage and solidarity, which is what it always takes to win on the waterfront,” said ILWU Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe. “Foss workers are showing that they’ve got what it takes to see this through to a just conclusion.”
ILWU members in Los Angeles, Seattle, and the Bay Area honored Martin Luther King Day by marching, protesting and meeting to promote social justice.
MLK breakfast in LA
“We can honor Dr. King’s legacy by continuing his struggle for justice, especially for the poor and oppressed in our society,” said ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams, who attended a breakfast on January 14 with other ILWU leaders organized by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. Adams noted that King was assassinated in Memphis while he was helping union sanitation workers win their courageous strike for respect and better pay.
California’s new Senator
Hundreds union members from throughout Southern California went to the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown LA where newly-elected U.S. Senator Kamala Harris was the featured speaker.“When our ideals and fundamental values are under attack, do we retreat or do we fight? I say we fight!” she said. “Whenever there’s been an assault on working families, we’ve never backed down. We ‘ve stood together. And that’s exactly what we’ll do now.”
Taking risks to win
Speakers at the LA event noted that King and other Civil Rights leaders of his generation were not afraid to take risks. King was arrested more than 30 times and suffered numerous beatings while advocating non-violent tactics in order to win public support.
King’s lessons for labor
“There’s still plenty we can learn from Dr. King’s leadership style and his approach to strategy,” said Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr. who attended the event. “There’s no progress without a struggle, and winning public support is as important today as it was then. King was challenged by how to win majority support for a “minority” cause, and that’s the same challenge labor unions face today with only 6% of private-sector workers in a union.”
The keynote speaker at the LA labor breakfast was Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, a leading human rights advocate who is challenging injustice in the courtroom and prison system. He has appeared before the Supreme Court and recently won a historic ruling that invalidated mandatory “lifewithout- parole” sentences for all children 17 or younger.
Seattle MLK march
ILWU members in the Puget Sound region joined a large event on Monday that began with workshops at a local high school, followed by a rally with speakers, and poetry and music in the gym. The main event was an afternoon march that drew an estimated 10,000 participants which ended at the federal building in downtown Seattle, where a final rally was held. This year’s event marked the 35th celebration held in Seattle to honor MLK’s legacy.
Bay Area breakfast
An early morning breakfast on January 16 brought ILWU members together with fellow unionists and civil rights activists at the Marriott Hotel San Francisco. The featured speaker was Dolores Huerta, a co-founder of the United Farmworkers Union, who helped lead a union drive five decades ago in California’s agricultural fields. The UFW played a central role in the continuing civil rights struggle by Latino immigrants.
The ILWU will be holding a Leadership Education and Development Institute (LEAD VII) in Seattle, Washington, May 7-11, 2017. The theme of this year’s training will be: Internal Unity and Mobilization: the ILWU in Action.
“Our union and its membership demands leadership education to survive and grow. LEAD helps develop activists, a strong rank and file—everyone has a niche and leadership training helps pave avenues for action on all levels,” commented ILWU Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams. “I look around and see that most of the leaders in this union have gone to LEAD. These programs help inspire and engage. Education will deliver us as we move forward.”
Topics at the training will include:
- Increasing strength and unity through member participation;
- Building union power in times of economic and political uncertainty;
- Improving communication— both within the union and with the general public;
- How to run effective union meetings;
- Bridging the generational gap; and inspiring young worker involvement;
- Lessons from the ILWU’s history, its diverse membership and divisions;
Instructors include active and retired ILWU members, labor activists, and staff from the International, university labor centers, and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Local unions and affiliates may nominate participants, who are each required to fill out an application and hotel reservation form. Priority consideration will be given to new officers and rank and file activists who have not yet participated in any previous LEAD programs. For reasons of space and diversity, each affiliate should expect to send no more than two participants, but a waiting list will be taken in case of cancellations or non-participation by some locals.
The LEAD budget will cover participants’ hotel stay, breakfast, lunch, training materials, facilities, and instructors. Participants will be housed together in double rooms but may upgrade to a single room at their own expense. Any reimbursement for expenses such as lost wages, or travel will have to be covered by the participant or his or her local or IBU region, or by area fundraising activities.
Financial hardship applications will be considered on an individual basis. In cases where financial hardship is an obstacle to participation, a written request for assistance, including a statement about the circumstances involved and the amount of assistance requested, must be submitted to the International Secretary-Treasurer. Interested members should complete and return the application and reservation forms, which are available from your local or through the ILWU website: www.ilwu.org/training. Educational Services Director Robin Walker is also available to help answer questions.
Please return the completed forms by fax or mail no later than March 10,
2017 to: ILWU LEAD VII Applications
c/o International Secretary
Treasurer William Adams
1188 Franklin St., 4th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94109
As the Dispatcher was going to press in Late December, tugboat crews at Foss Maritime Long Beach were trying to renew a contract that expired six months ago on June 30, 2016.
“It’s not unusual for negotiations to continue after a contract expires, but the refusal by Foss to bargain in good faith is what’s different here,” said IBU Regional Director John Skow.
He says there were roughly 30 negotiating sessions since May of 2016, but most involved company demands for unilateral concessions from the union, instead of good-faith bargaining to reach a settlement.
Retaliation against IBU members
Foss tug crews belong to the ILWU’s Marine Division, known as the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU). Until recently, about 50 IBU crewmembers were working on Foss tugs at the Ports of LA and Long Beach – the nation’s largest port complex. But when Foss officials didn’t get their way at the negotiating table, they retaliated with layoffs that targeted over 30 IBU members. Retaliation against union members is illegal and the IBU quickly filed federal charges against Foss, but the legal process still favors companies with deep pockets – and the new administration in Washington is making it clear that they intend to be friendly with corporations, not union members.
Foss wants to break with CA law
Foss has dug their heels behind a company demand that union members must waive their right to 8-hour shifts with overtime pay after a full day’s work. Those terms are also part of California’s labor code. It is technically possible to bend that law – but only if workers voluntarily agree to give up that right to overtime after am 8-hour shift in a new contract, which Foss has been demanding from the beginning.
Weeks on duty, smaller crews
Foss has taken their demand to waive overtime to the extreme, by insisting that tug crews remain on company vessels for up to two weeks before going home. Besides getting no overtime, the company would force crewmembers to work “mini-shifts” of 6 hours, with just 6 hours of downtime between shifts. The company is also proposing to reduce crew sizes from the current 3 to just 2, posing another safety hazard.
Dangers of sleep deprivation
Numerous scientific studies have proven the need for extended sleep periods to ensure safety and top performance, a fact that the company has apparently overlooked or ignored.
“These change would make Foss a lot of money, but it would also be incredibly dangerous for crewmembers to perform hazardous tasks while sleep deprived,” said IBU President Alan Coté.
Tugs crews know that their work can be extremely dangerous, and can describe some incredibly horrible incidents – including serious injuries and deaths – that have occurred at LA/ Long Beach.
“The 8-hour-day is a right that workers all over America fought and died to win,” said Adam Petty, a member of the IBU Bargaining Committee. “Longer duty periods would be hard on our families and pose a real threat to our safety, so we can’t ignore that reality when the company talks about increasing efficiency and making more profit.”
Big company with deep pockets
Foss is owned by a wealthy conglomerate called Salchuk that formed in 1982 and has been growing ever since with both union and non-union operations. Salchuk has used their flexibility to benefit wealthy owners at the expense of workers. For example, after Foss retaliated against workers with layoffs, they were able to keep clients by reshuffling tug business to a Saltchuk subsidiary known as “AmNav,” which operates at various west coast ports including LA/Long Beach – without IBU crewmembers.
Saltchuk workers are represented by a number of different unions, and the IBU is coordinating information with them, including the Masters, Mates and Pilots (MMP), Marine Engineers Beneficial Association (MEBA) and the Seafarers International Union (SIU) which has contracts with Crowley Maritime at the Ports of LA and Long Beach. Crowley crews remain onboard their tugs for days at a time, but the work they do – moving vessels in and out of the harbor complex – involves frequent downtime between the busy mornings and evenings, so they can’t be directly compared with Foss tugs that do different types of work without long breaks in their schedules.
Threat prompts strike vote
Foss escalated, first by retaliating with layoffs and again on December 9 when they announced the company’s “last, best and final” contract offer, declaring they intended to implement terms unilaterally in late December and early January – unless the union agreed to the company’s contract terms before then. The IBU’s negotiating committee responded by issuing a possible strike notice to Foss officials, and sending the company’s “last, best and final offer” to workers for a vote. Ballots from union members concerning the company’s final offer were scheduled to be counted on January 3.
“We’ve had a long relationship with Foss, and understand that changes are sometimes required in every industry, but we also need Foss to respect workers by negotiating over changes, instead of issuing demands, imposing ultimatums or breaking the law, which always rubs people the wrong way,” said IBU President Alan Coté.
Members of ILWU Canada are continuing to help other workers – and themselves – by fighting to save good jobs in the maritime industry through an ongoing series of protests and public actions. Another “free trade” deal Last November, they joined a coalition that organized a march and rally with ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton, Vancouver Labour Council President Joey Hartman, and SIU Canada President Jim Given (see last month’s Dispatcher). That protest targeted attacks on maritime jobs being threatened by a new free trade agreement negotiated on behalf of corporations in Europe and Canada, called the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA).
Helping Hanjin seafarers
In December, Locals 400, 500, 502, and 514 continued their support for seafarers who have been stranded for months aboard Hanjin vessels around the Port of Vancouver, while the company’s bankruptcy moves slowly through the courts.
Hanjin seafarers are being paid and receiving good meals, thanks to political pressure from the ILWU, with support from International Transport Workers Federation that is working with Korean unions to help Hanjin crews.
On December 15, an informative and sympathetic news story about the Hanjin workers and the union solidarity support effort was produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation – known as the “CBC.”
That report provided background about the plight of Hanjin workers, which ILWU Canada and the ITF have been supporting, along with efforts in the U.S. by the ILWU and ITF that helped win shore leave for Hanjin seafarers, as reported in last month’s Dispatcher.
Solidarity on the water
The latest Hanjin solidarity action in Canada came on December 20 when Local 400 joined with Locals 500, 502, and 514 as well as the British Columbia’s Ferry and Marine Workers Union, and Victoria Filipino Canadian Association, to visit seafarers aboard the Hanjin container vessel, Scarlet, who have been anchored off British Columbia’s Southern Gulf Islands since late summer.
A ton of Christmas provisions
Volunteers brought one ton of Christmas provisions – including a 90-pound pig and plenty of charcoal to roast it. Most of the goods delivered to seafarers on Dec. 20 were donated by workers at four collection sites: the Bayanihan Community Centre in Victoria, the B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union office in Nanaimo, the Maritime Labour Centre in Vancouver, and Local 502’s dispatch hall.
“We asked for support, and the community really came through for these workers,” said Jason Woods, Secretary- Treasurer of ILWU Local 400. The Filipino Canadian Association of Victoria was involved because most of the seafarers come from the Philippines or Korea.
In addition to delivering warm clothing, entertainment items, including DVD’s, video games and board games were provided. Supporters also brought some Filipino food specialties. Several days earlier, a group of Christmas carolers from Pender Island visited the Scarlet and sang songs for the crew.
“It’s lonely,” said sailor Romeo Cabacang from the Philippines. “But all the crew, we are very happy for the early Christmas gift.”
Good media coverage
News of the solidarity action was conveyed to the general public via reports in Canada’s national newspaper, the National Post. Additional stories were carried by the CBC and Vancouver Island’s Chek 6 Television News. Another story about the event was broadcast nationwide on December 22 by CBC radio, including a live interview with Local 400’s Jason Woods, who was encouraged to do the program by ILWU President Rob Ashton.
South Korean support on Nov 29
ILWU Canada members supported a separate solidarity action in November that was organized after the ITF contacted President Rob Ashton of ILWU Canada to help South Korean unions seeking to oust President Park Geun-hye because of her corruption and anti-worker policies.
Maritime Council acts
President Ashton approached members of the Pacific Coast Maritime Council while he was attending the British Columbia Federation of Labour convention. Together they developed a plan to march on the South Korea’s Consulate in Vancouver, as a way to protest the Park government’s corruption and abuse of worker rights.
Marching to the Consulate
On November 29, Rob Ashton – who serves as President of both the ILWU Canada and Pacific Coast Maritime Council – invited Labour Federation delegates to join the march during the Convention lunch break. He also announced that South Korean workers had simultaneously organized a general strike and were protesting in the streets. Many different unions supported the march from Vancouver’s Canada Place to the South Korean Consulate. A group of 50 workers demonstrated in front of the Consulate while a delegation went inside to read and deliver a letter from Maritime Council President Ashton, Vice Presidents Gerry Gault and Tom Doran, and Secretary-Treasurer Graeme Johnston.
New action planned January 12
ILWU Canada locals are coordinating a solidarity action on January 12 with the Seafarer’s International Union (SIU) Canada and Canadian ILA leaders.
They plan to begin the New Year with a “National Day of Action” in Canada that involves union members and supporters from Newfoundland in the east to Victoria in the west – with activities also planned at the big ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert. All events are scheduled to begin at 10am pacific time. The goal is to protect maritime jobs that are being threatened by corporate greed.
Foreign flags, lower pay
The planned national action is a response to moves made by vessel owners in Newfoundland who changed the flags on ships being crewed by SIU members. By “re-flagging” these vessels to operate under a Marshall Islands flag, ship owners hope to dodge labor, environmental and tax laws that apply to vessels flying Canadian and U.S. flags.
ILWU Local 400 is fighting a similar struggle in Victoria against a foreign flagged vessel operating with poorly paid, predominantly Filipino seafarers who earn less than the region’s minimum wage and far less than the $30 per hour that Local 400 crewmembers typically receive. The foreign-flagged vessel operates from port-to-port within Canada, something known in maritime law as “cabotage.” Canada and the U.S. both have laws requiring all cabotage work to be performed by vessels flying domestic flags and following domestic labor laws, including the Jones Act in the U.S. and a similar law in Canada. But Canada’s Trudeau government recently issued a waiver allowing a foreign-flagged ship to be based in Victoria and operate between Canadian ports. In the U.S., attacks against the Jones Act are increasingly common and could escalate under President Trump.
“This is part of the corporate greed ethic that can also lead to public ports being privatized,” said ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton. “Free trade agreements are part of the same disease that destroys workers and communities in order to enrich corporations and CEO’s.”
On December 6, the ILWU International Executive Board voted unanimously to adopt a statement of policy opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The controversial project is opposed by Native Americans across the continent because it threatens Native lands and water.
The pipeline’s original route would have crossed the Missouri River upstream from Bismarck, North Dakota, but was rerouted because of concerns that an oil leak would contaminate the City’s water supply.Pipeline proponents want the oil to cross just a half-mile upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, buried underneath the tribe’s water supply.
The ongoing protest by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on their North Dakota reservation began in April, 2016. The effort has drawn world-wide attention and attracted thousands of Native American supporters and allies. It has become the largest protest gathering of Native Tribes in recent history.
International Executive Board Statement of Policy
“The Tribal Nations of the Great Plains rely on the waters of the life-giving Missouri River for present and future existence, and the Dakota Access Pipeline construction poses a very serious risk to that continued existence. The Dakota Access Pipeline threatens the safety of the areas of fish and wildlife, sacred sites and historical archeological resources that lie within and around the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and associated lands,” declares the ILWU Statement of Policy.
The International Executive Board also approved a $10,000 donation to the Standing Rock Sioux from the solidarity fund. The Coast Longshore Committee added an additional $5,000 donation.
“The ILWU has never been afraid to take a stand on important political issues,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath
Support for the Standing Rock Sioux was first expressed by the ILWU’s Pacific Coast Pensioners Association that adopted a resolution in September of 2016.
Local 10’s Executive Board then passed a resolution on November 8 against the pipeline project and in support of increased funding for workers affected by any jobs lost on the pipeline. The resolution called on the labor movement to support a “just transition” for workers into renewable energy jobs, to help working families, combat climate change and promote investment in renewable energy.
Labor unions divided
The ILWU is among a number of unions that have pledged support for protests led by the Standing Rock Sioux. The Amalgamated Transit Union, American Postal Workers Union, Communications Workers of America, National Nurses United, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the United Electrical Workers have all issued statements supporting the protest. Support has also come from six AFL-CIO constituent groups, including the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.
However, last September, the AFL-CIO issued a statement supporting the pipeline project, thought to be the result of pressure from the Building Trades Department. The Building Trades issued a letter to their membership that sharply criticized unions who have opposed the pipeline project.
ILWU delegations lend a hand Local 4 members Steve Hunt, Jamison Roberts and Josh Goodwin were the first ILWU members on the ground in Standing Rock in November of 2016. They drove 3,000 miles round trip to deliver over $7,000 worth of supplies to the camp. Hunt said he decided to go after seeing media video of protesters being attacked by private security guards and he wanted to see first-hand what was happening.
“I wanted to know the truth,” Hunt said. “When we were locked out of the grain elevators in Washington, I saw the tactics used by private security, police, and the military. I know they aren’t there to protect the green grass. They have the backs of the oil companies. It reminded me of the grain lockout when the Coast Guard would just push us out of the way when they wanted to bring a ship in.”
When word got out that Hunt was planning a trip to Standing Rock, donations from Local 4 members started rolling in. Hunt said he had to take a larger truck and rent a trailer to fit all of the donated gear, food and toiletries. Hunt financed the trip out of his own pocket, but at a recent meeting, Local 4 members voted to reimburse him for expenses.
A delegation from ILWU Local 23 went to Standing Rock just after the Thanksgiving holiday to deliver $6,000 in donated supplies. The delegation included Local 23 President Dean McGrath, Local 23 members Theresa Sammalisto and Brendan Winders and Local 23 casual Brian Skiffington.
McGrath said that “solidarity was the one word that sums up the vibe at the Standing Rock encampment.”
He met people there from all over the world who came together to brave the harsh North Dakota winter to provide support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who are fighting to protect their land and way of life.
“The conflict at standing rock has been a great example of the battle between the one percent and everyone else,” McGrath said. “The concern of the Standing Rock Sioux for the water on their land has been met with violent attacks by private security and police. Hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars are being spent to protect the interests of the pipeline company. Many of us are realizing that the cards are stacked against us by the elite, and that the only way we can survive is through working-class solidarity.”
Delegations from Locals 10 and 13 arrived in the beginning of December, just after the International Executive Board passed its Statement of Policy.
“Despite enduring long periods of sub-zero weather and violence at the hands of law enforcement, the brothers and sisters at ‘Oceti Oyate’ (the People’s Camp) are all in. They are firmly resolved in effort and purpose to protect their land and their water supply,” said Local 10 President Ed Ferris.
“I was inspired by the courage, kindness, and solidarity that I witnessed at Oceti Oyate. It was an experience that I will never forget.” Ferris added, “I am very proud of our union for putting significant resources and boots on the ground to support this struggle. By doing so, we have honored the ILWU’s rich tradition of fighting for social justice. We have honored our slogan ‘An injury to one, is an injury to all.’”
“It was an extremely humbling experience,” said ILWU Local 13 President Bobby Olvera Jr. Olvera was inspired by the teamwork by all ILWU members from different locals who stepped-up to do whatever jobs were needed to assist the Sioux. “Everyone pulled their weight. There were no titles there. We were all lending our hands to build structures or whatever tasks were needed. The ILWU has always taken stands on social issues going back to Harry’s day. With Trump coming into office, we are going to need even more of this.” Olvera said.
Tim Hernandez is a registered Class B longshore worker from Local 13 who was a part of the Local 13 delegation to Standing Rock. Hernandez, who is Lakota, was an important part of the ILWU team. His knowledge of the culture and language helped to strengthen the ties between the ILWU delegations and the Standing Rock Sioux and to help teach the ILWU delegations the proper protocols of being on sacred lands, Hernandez said.
“It was a blessing to be able to return home for the first time,” Hernandez said. “I’m not from Standing Rock, I’m from Pine Ridge, but we are a part of the Lakota Nation, and we are relatives. I knew it would be a life changing experience and that the ancestors would be present. The Seventh Generation—my generation—is experiencing an awakening. We need to take care of the earth and fight for all life.”
End game unclear
President Obama’s administration reviewed the pipeline project and determined that the company should re-route the project in order to protect the tribe’s water supply and sacred sites. And on December 6, Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault asked supporters to leave the encampment due to dangerous blizzards that would continue to pose a hazard throughout the winter.
The direction of the pipeline project could take another turn when President-elect Donald Trump takes office on January 20. His appointment of oil company executives and lobbyists to key cabinet positions could re-start a struggle in the Spring if the pipeline returns to its original routing through the Sioux’s water supply.
By Erik Davis - First of May Anarchist Analysis, December 4, 2016
A PDF of this interview is here.
The General Defense Committee of the Industrial Workers World (IWW) has become an important pole of struggle for pro-working-class revolutionaries in the Twin Cities. While active on a number of different fronts it is the participation of the General Defense Committee (GDC) in the year-long struggle against police killings and brutality in the Twin Cities that has largely led to the significant growth of the organization. The GDC has grown to approximately 90 dues-paying members in Minnesota, and has several active working-groups. In the wake of Trump’s election victory, Wobblies(1) and others across the country have begun establishing their own GDC locals – strongly influenced by the Twin Cities’ model.
First of May Anarchist Alliance spoke to Erik D. secretary of the Twin Cities GDC Local 14 about the history and work of the General Defense Committee there. Erik is a father, husband, education worker, and wobbly, who’s also been involved in the youth-focused intergenerational group, the Junior Wobblies.
Fellow Worker Erik – can you tell us about the origins and history of the General Defense Committee, its relationship to the IWW and how the militants who founded the current Local conceived of it?
As I understand it, the General Defense Committee (GDC) was first founded by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in 1917, in response to the repression of wobblies and anti-WWI draft protests. I haven’t learned enough about the historic GDC to really speak much about it. I joined the IWW in 2006, and we didn’t formally charter the current local as a GDC until 2011. In 2011, the committee was 13 wobblies. But we had actually started organizing ourselves prior to 2011, calling ourselves the Local Defense Committee.
Are there historical or modern examples or inspirations that influence the way GDC sees itself, its activity and organization?
One of the things I’ve appreciated about the Twin Cities GDC is the very practical intention to learn, with a specific focus on learning in order to act. From the very beginning we engaged in mutual education. Since one of our early orientations was to anti-fascist and anti-racist work, we did a fair bit of reading on the topic of fascism and anti-fascism (Sunday mornings with coffee).
I mention this period of mutual education because we have a lot of inspirations, but none of them have been role models, per se. We have looked to previous movements largely in order to inform our own work and to learn from our elders and the experience of previous generations, but not as Role Models To Be Emulated. That’s been important.
With that caveat, we have a lot of inspiration. I get new inspiration every time I read a book, it seems. Some of the inspiration is local: here, I’d specifically highlight Anti-Racist Action and Teamsters Local 544. Anti-Racist Action (ARA) came out of a Minneapolis-based group of anti-racist skinheads who decided they needed to find a way to kick racist skins and organized fascists out of the Twin Cities. Teamsters Local 544 was the local that organized the 1934 strike that made Minneapolis a union town, innovated new forms of the picket (specifically, the ‘flying picket’), and engaged for a short time in open physical confrontation on the streets.
Beyond the Twin Cities, I think our members have a lot of very different inspirations. One of mine has always been John Brown, but I grew up partly in Kansas. I guess the Black Panther Party would be the most common source of inspiration among early members; our advocacy of Community Self Defense certainly owes a lot to the Panthers, including their Survival Programs. The most recent addition to my ‘Hall of Inspiration’ is Rudy Shields, whom I learned about from Akinyele Omowale Umoja’s We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement.
One of the first projects of the Twin Cities GDC was organizing a “Picket Training”, which seems like a kind of simple project, but you all attached some importance to it. How come?
I think the history of the Picket Training is actually the beginning of the history of the local GDC, so forgive me for a longer answer. The IWW was always heavily involved in local May Day events, naturally. In both 2007 and 2008 we had dispiriting and potentially dangerous experiences in marches that were organized by other groups. These happened when we were ‘out-marshaled’ and ‘peace-policed.’ Folks might remember the 2006 “Day Without An Immigrant.” In 2007 immigrant protection and rights continued to be major issues, and the march was partly centered around pro-immigrant demands.
So it was worrying when wobblies who had been active in local anti-fascist actions saw someone they thought they knew from a fascist rally elsewhere in the state videotaping the crowd (we were never able to confirm the identity because of what happened next). Fascists videotaping an immigrants rights march is extremely concerning; they were likely videotaping either to research immigrants rights’ groups (including antifa groups), or to identify potentially undocumented people.
A few wobblies went to talk to the videotaper and get in the way of the camera. Shouting commenced, and the self-appointed organizers of the march successfully pushed the wobblies back into the crowd, allowing the videotaping to continue.
The May Day parade the next year found wobblies promoting militant chants shut down by the same sort of marshals.
At roughly the same time, the local IWW was doing a lot of organizing. While some of us had prior experience in organizing pickets and direct actions, the Starbucks Workers campaign, the Jimmy John’s campaign, the Sisters Camelot Canvas Union, and the Chicago-Lake Liquors campaigns all provided early experience and training in planning and executing pickets and direct actions, in a context where we were already committed to IWW ideas and practices. Some of these were particularly challenging, such as doing intelligence and the occasional flying picket of scab canvassers in the Sisters Camelot campaign. Since they never stayed put, it felt like a throwback to the 1934 strikes and the flying pickets. It was cold both Winters.
There was one particular occasion at the University of Minnesota AFSCME strike in 2007 where the IWW promoted, and executed, a hard picket line in the early morning hours at a delivery dock. This was going extremely well until a UMN delivery truck driver rammed the picket line. I was in the wrong place at the moment, and ended up on his hood. I found out later I’d crushed three neck vertebrae; it took two surgeries and a lot of physical therapy to get past it. It also gave me a serious motivation for doing pickets and direct actions better. Just a week after a truck hit me, a delivery truck hit another picketer at an IWW picket of D’Amico’s restaurant, thankfully without serious consequences.
Finally, 2008 was the end of an intense two-year process organized at disrupting the Republican National Convention. Most of us already had a critique of ‘summit hopping’ styles of disruption, few of which have been effective since before the FTAA in Miami 2003. But a number of wobblies were serious and on occasion influential participants in (at least the early period of) the two years of planning that ended up calling itself the “Welcoming Committee.” The Welcoming Committee meetings (which were held in the same community space as the early IWW at the time, the Jack Pine Community Center) hammered out some early agreements and principles, including, along with other interested groups, the well-known Saint Paul Principles. This process also gave local wobblies experience in critically thinking through on-the-street tactics and what it would take to actually win goals and actions on those streets, whether in labor pickets or direct actions(2).
All these motivations and experiences were in the forefront of our minds when we thought up the picket training. We knew we had to get better at this, and though we all had some experience, that’s not the same thing as having teachable knowledge. So we researched, wrote, debated, and practiced. We adopted a principle of teaching the tactics quickly rather than perfecting the training first, and encouraged people to think about themselves as the next trainers. In order to keep track of our curriculum and to make it portable, we created a trainer’s manual, a trainee manual, and a setup manual, which we update frequently.
We offer the trainings to non-wobblies, and while we avoid being an on-call security group, we are trusted locally as providing quality security and planning successful actions. With the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and on-the-streets protest since Ferguson, I think the GDC has earned a bit of respect from other local organizations as a result.
By Steve Early, former International Representative, Communications Workers of America and author of Save Our Unions and other books.
I first met Chris White, a Connecticut native and former hard rock miner from Leadville, Colorado 37 years ago. Chris was one of the key organizer’s of a cross-union reform organization in Alaska called Ruled Out of Order (ROOR). Anyone who has ever been a union dissident knows why the group was called that! At the time, I was working for the Professional Drivers Council (PROD), soon to be merged with Teamsters for a Democratic Union. Chris was a Laborer, not a Teamster, but he arranged for me to visit his adopted state and meet with members of ROOR. They included Teamsters, Hotel and Restaurant Employees, and former Alaska pipeline workers from every construction trade.
Four decades ago, people moved to Alaska not just because of the pipeline boom. They ended up in places like Fairbanks, Anchorage, Livengood, or Clear, Alaska—where Teamster technicians maintained an ICBM tracking station—because they thought Idaho was getting too crowded. Needless to say, ROOR members were probably the most colorful, eccentric, and committed rank-and-file activists I have ever met. Their shared concerns about mishandling of Taft-Hartley pension and welfare funds, and the lack of democracy within their unions, made them formidable adversaries of entrenched local union officials. At the national level, LIUNA in the 1970s, like the Teamsters in that era, was a pretty mobbed up operation. It took great courage to challenge corruption in unions like that—and Chris White, a gentle soul in appearance, was utterly fearless.
Chris (as the picture here confirms) had a longtime commitment to the Industrial Workers of the World, and its proud traditions. In recent years, he could be found camping out in 40-degree below weather with Occupy Fairbanks folks or serving on the board of Alaska Peace Center in Fairbanks. He also fought many battles within the Democratic Party of Alaska to keep it focused, at least partially, on working class concerns. He was greatly encouraged by Bernie Sanders 2015-16 campaign in the Democratic presidential primaries. When Bernie placed second, Chris backed Jill Stein and the Green Party.
At the local memorial service for Chris on December 2, 2016, his life well led was recalled by those who knew him best and loved him the most. He will be long remembered by everyone he ever worked with or aided in the struggle for union democracy and a better world for workers.
By Dante Strobino - Workers World, December 7, 2016
Raleigh, N.C. – There was once a time when the Klu Klux Klan could march in the thousands with impunity in state capitols across the U.S. South. But today mass movements across the country have pushed them back, despite the electoral win of bigoted Donald Trump. Millions of people in the streets, marching against Trump and all he stands for, have emboldened the social movement.
Over 2,000 people rallied in downtown Raleigh at Moore Square Park on Dec. 3 to protest the KKK and Trump — to forge ahead with struggles for people’s power and against racism, wars and all forms of oppression.
The Loyal White Knights of the KKK, a small group in Pelham, N.C., had announced they would be holding a Dec. 3 “victory kavalcade” at an unannounced location somewhere in North Carolina.
To oppose them, there were coordinated big rallies in Raleigh, Charlotte and Greensboro. People also rallied in Salisbury and Mebane. People from countless other cities across the state came to the Raleigh and Charlotte rallies, truly expressing a statewide day of action.
Desmera Gatewood, emcee of the rally, stated the purpose of the rallies: “We refuse to back down against the endless police murders of Black people. We stand in solidarity with the Black community in Charlotte as they protest against the non-indictment of cop Brentley Vinson who killed Keith Lamont Scott. We stand in solidarity with our immigrant friends who now fear threats of deportation by Trump. Our movement for not one more deportation will keep fighting ahead!“
Gatewood continued, “We stand against hate crimes and racist violence against our friends who are labeled terrorists by the state and Trump by virtue of being Muslim. We are also workers fighting for $15 per hour and for collective bargaining rights for public workers! We oppose any new wars that Trump threatens to create. We move forward to advance our struggle for quality public schools and to defend all public services that Trump has threatened to shut down. We won’t let him shut anything down!”
The Triangle Unity May Day Coalition, representing a broad range of freedom fighters and organizations, including Black, Latinx, LGBTQ, Muslim, immigrant, women, workers and people with disabilities, called the rally to assert that #ThisIsOurNC — that the state belongs to the people, not to the forces of Wall Street or the wealthy, not to white supremacists and the police.
The day after the rally, the Triangle (Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh) area People’s Assembly drew hundreds of new people eager to get involved in the militant social movement.
The rally came a few days after the Charlotte District Attorney decided not to indict Brentley Vinson, the white cop who killed Keith Lamont Scott. It came only a day after a South Carolina jury was deadlocked and failed to convict Michael Slager, a white former North Charleston policeman who killed unarmed Walter Scott. A mistrial was declared Dec. 5.
As for the KKK, they did finally confirm late Friday night that they would be in Pelham. A group of about 150 folks, organized through the Triangle Industrial Workers of the World, traveled there to directly confront the KKK, but they had moved their event. Chasing them to Danville, Va., the IWW took the streets and marched carrying a banner, reading, “John Brown Lives, Smash White Supremacy.” The reference is to the white freedom fighter who organized an armed 19th-century uprising against slavery.
The KKK never publicly displayed themselves in Danville. They later appeared briefly in Roxboro, N.C., with a small caravan of about 20 cars that rode through the town, flying U.S. flags, Confederate flags and KKK flags, for about five minutes with support from the local police.
The unified movement had forced the KKK to scuttle and run. As Manzoor Cheema, of Muslims for Social Justice, said at the Raleigh rally, “The gathering at the anti-KKK rally should not be the only time when people come together to challenge racism and oppression. People need to become part of a long-term movement to challenge all forms of oppression. Triangle People’s Assembly is building such a grass-roots movement that centers power to the most marginalized.”
Reposted from It's Going Down, December 4
DANVILLE, VA – On Saturday, December 3rd, the Triangle Area Industrial Workers of the World joined a broad coalition of over 100 protesters from different affinity groups responding to reports that the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan would be holding a “victory parade” in Pelham, North Carolina. The protesters ran the Klan out of both Pelham and Danville, Virginia, the other proposed location for their parade. We held the street and marched through both Pelham and Danville, while the Klan could only muster a car parade speeding through six blocks in Roxboro, NC (aided by NC state troopers, of course).
By staff - NEPA IWW, December 1, 2016
The Northeast Pennsylvania Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) stands in strong opposition to the reactionary and authoritarian forces that are on the rise in many parts of the world including the United States. These reactionaries will take control of the US government on January 20th with the inauguration of Donald Trump. These forces seek to divide the working class and turn worker against worker for the benefit of those that have the most wealth and power. This is not new. We have seen this over and over again throughout history – from Franco’s Spain, Nazi Germany and the era of Thatcher and Reagan. Each of these regimes viciously attacked labor, immigrants and all others that opposed them. We vow to fight this latest upsurge of reactionary forces together as a united working class seeking our liberation. We refuse to see our fellow workers as enemies regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, immigration status or nationality. We believe in the slogan: an injury to one is an injury to all.
On January 20th 2017 Donald Trump and his reactionary cabal will take office. We must resist this dangerous regime. We have seen their values. They rose to power on a platform of hate and division. They will continue this as they take hold of the U.S. government. If history is any guide, we know that once they are fully in power, they will attack organized labor and every perceived enemy very soon after. They know that we, the workers that run society, are one of the few obstacles to their agenda. We need to take this opportunity to show our unity and our strength.
We call for mass action across the nation and the world on January 20th to resist these dangerous forces. We will organize resistance in our workplaces, our communities and in the streets. We call on all people to do the same. Take action to resist this rising tide of reactionary authoritarianism. Organize a walkout at your school or workplace. Call in sick. Take to the streets. Together, we will place our bodies upon the gears of the machine of hate and force it to a stop. As the Trump regime consolidates power and fills all the seats of the state with yes-men and cronies, the power of popular resistance is the only power we have left. The IWW has been doing this for more than110 years and we will continue to fight for the liberation of the working class. This is a struggle for the type of world we want to live in - a struggle for humanity against barbarism.
If we do not act now, it will be too late. If we let them take the reins of the state without any resistance they will think that they have won - that they have a mandate. They do not. We are the majority. We hold the greater power of collective resistance and collective solidarity. We are humanity. We will win!
In Scranton we will be gathering at 12:00 noon for a rally and march in Courthouse Square. Join us in this show of solidarity.