Unions

ILWU join millions of Americans mourning the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

ILWU - Thu, 10/08/2020 - 10:39
Trump nominee Amy Coney Barrett a threat to the Affordable Care Act, healthcare for millions of workers at risk

“On behalf of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU), it is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I join the millions of people across the country as we mourn the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Part of our democracy has died today,” said ILWU International President Willie Adams in a statement released on September 19.

Justice Ginsburg passed away on September 18 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 87.

Legal trailblazer

Ginsburg was the architect that defined the legal battle for women’s rights in the 1970s when she was a lawyer for the ACLU. In a series of legal cases, Ginsburg advanced the idea that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment covered discrimination based on sex.

Her legal strategy was to bring cases that could show how such discrimination harmed men because she believed judges would be more likely to find that to be problematic than those that focused solely on the impact to women. Ginsburg’s lawsuits also challenged the norms that defined women’s primary role as caregivers and men’s role as workers outside the home.

In the 1972 case, Charles E. Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue argued before the 10th Circuit, Ginsburg represented the plaintiff, Charles Moritz. Moritz brought suit after the IRS denied his deduction for the cost of a caregiver for his invalid mother. The law at the time specifically allowed such a deduction, but only for women and formerly married men.

In 1975, Ginsburg argued the case Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld before the U.S, Supreme Court. Ginsburg represented Stephen Wiesenfeld, a widower and the sole provider for his newborn son. Wiesenfeld sued after he was denied Social Security Survivor’s benefits that were made available to widows but not widowers.

In both Mortitz and Weinberger, the courts ruled that the Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

Defender of worker’s rights

Ginsburg was also strong supporter of the rights of workers. In her dissent in the 2018 case of Epic Systems Corp v. Lewis, Ginsburg articulated a fundamental principle of unionism—the strength of workers’ collective power.  She wrote, “For workers striving to gain from their employer’s decent terms and conditions of employment, there is strength in numbers. A single employee, Congress understood, is disarmed in dealing with an employer.”.

Ginsburg joined the dissent in AFSCME v. Janus. In that case, the Court’s majority ruled that public employees do not have to pay fees to unions to cover the costs of collective bargaining. The dissent, written by Justice Elena Kagan, criticized the Court for being “black-robed rulers overriding citizens’ choices” by overturning “a decision entrenched in this Nation’s law—and its economic life—for over 40 years. As a result, it prevents the American people, acting through their state and local officials, from making important choices about workplace governance.”

Rush to replace

Immediately after Ginsburg’s death, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell vowed to confirm a new appointment to the Supreme Court before the November 3rd elections. This rush to fill the vacant seat stands in sharp contrast to the Republican position in 2016 when the GOP-controlled Senate refused to hold a confirmation hearing on Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, because the country was nine months away from an election.

Another Trump appointment would cement a 6-3 supermajority for extremist conservatives on the Supreme Court who are increasingly out-of-step with the majority of American voters. If the nomination goes through, Trump, who lost the popular vote by over 3 million votes, will have appointed one-third of the Court’s nine Justices. George W. Bush, who also lost the popular vote, appointed two Justices.

Healthcare for millions at risk

Trump’s nomination to fill Ginsburg’s seat, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, poses an immediate threat to the Affordable Care Act and the healthcare of millions of Americans. The Supreme Court will review the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) this November in the case California v. Texas. If the ACA is invalidated, Americans will lose protections for pre-existing conditions—including those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19—and tens of millions of workers who benefit from 1) financial assistance to obtain coverage, 2) the Medicare expansion provisions of the ACA and 3) those who are allowed to remain on their parent’s plan until the age of 26, are at risk of losing medical coverage in the middle of a pandemic.

Barret’s opposition to the ACA is not in doubt. In 2017, Judge Barrett wrote an article that was highly critical of the Supreme Court’s narrow 5-4 ruling to uphold the ACA. She wrote in support of the minority that voted to overturn the law and there is no reason to think that she will not vote to overturn the ACA if given the opportunity.

Barrett’s anti-worker record

The appointment Judge Barrett also poses a risk for workers’ rights. According to the Alliance for Justice, Barrett recently ruled in favor of limiting the enforcement of workers’ protections against age-discrimination by employers. And in Wallace v. GrubHub HoldingsInc., Barrett ruled against drivers claiming that GrubHub violated federal labor law by failing to pay them overtime wages. The ruling also blocked many workers from suing in court to protect their rights by upholding technology companies’ use of mandatory arbitration clauses that force worker disputes to be decided by private arbitrators handpicked by the companies instead of an impartial court of law.

Ginsburg’s final request

President Adams’ concluded his statement by calling on the Senate to respect Ginsburg’s last wishes.

Adams wrote, “The ILWU joins the voices of millions of Americans in supporting Justice Ginsburg’s final request when she wrote, ‘My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed’” We are committed to seeing this request respected by all members of the United States Senate. In her name, we, the ILWU, will continue the fight for justice for all. Rest in power, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”

Side bar

San Pedro vigil honors RBG

Scores of people gathered in San Pedro on September 21 to honor Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a candlelight vigil.

The gathering was one of many across the country to celebrate the life of Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

Ginsburg has become an icon in recent years and was the most prominent member on the Court.

Speakers included LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn, Assembly member Patrick O’Donnell, LA Councilmember Joe Buscaino, LA Harbor Commissioner Diane Middleton and ILWU Local 26 President Luisa Gratz.

Middleton said that Ginsburg served as a role model for women. “When I graduated law school in 1971. there were four women in my class,’ she said. “Today in law schools, women make up 40 to 50 percent of the classes. When I arrived in San Pedro in 1978, there were only six women on the waterfront. Justice Ginsburg stood for all of these women. It wasn’t just about her landmark dissents; it was about what she showed us that could be possible.”

Gratz challenged the crowd, which included many ILWU members, to continue Ginsburg’s fight. “What is going on in the Supreme Court today is the result of our silence over the last few decades. If we don’t organize, we will live with the results,” Gratz said. “Ruth Bader Ginsberg was a unique human being. She also was a woman. She had integrity, courage, brilliance, tenacity, humility, intelligence, and was driven by factual analysis, and context that drove her perspective in the name of justice for her clients, her country, for the judicial arena, and process we evolved to, and most of all, she knew no men are free unless women are equal without litigious, economic, or structural limitation. She was amazing and unfortunately rare.  She left an abyss that many don’t yet understand. She will be and is already missed.”

Categories: Unions

Secretary-Treasurer’s report

ILWU - Wed, 10/07/2020 - 16:43

ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris

Your vote has never meant more

America is in crisis and Donald Trump and the Republican Party have shown that they aren’t up to the task. The working class of this country cannot afford another four years of their failed leadership.

At the time of this writing, over 200,000 lives have been lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to some forecasting models, that number may unfortunately double by the end of the year. Trump’s response to the crisis has been to deny, deflect and divide. At a recent rally in Ohio, Trump told a crowd of his admirers that coronavirus “affects almost nobody.”

This administration has failed to get the pandemic under control because they have refused to follow the sound, science-based health policies that have been successful throughout the industrialized world. Because of Trump’s failure, workers have paid with their lives and their jobs. We cannot allow this to continue.

Wildfires are raging throughout the Western United States with dozens of lives lost, thousands of homes destroyed, and over 5 million acres of land burned so far this summer.

Hurricanes are currently pummeling the southeastern states and are seemingly increasing in frequency, size, and damage every year. Climate change is real. But like the administration’s response to the pandemic, their policy is to deny the science as the costs to workers, the economy, and the planet grows.

And if enough negative events haven’t occurred already in 2020, iconic Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg–a champion of gender equality, women’s interests, and civil rights has passed away at the age of 87.

President Trump and his sycophants have quickly attempted to take advantage of this tragic loss by actively working to ram in another extremist Supreme Court justice confirmation with fewer than 50 days left until the U.S. Presidential election. These actions are in stark contrast to the GOP’s position in 2016 when they refused to confirm President Obama’s Supreme Court pick because the country was only 200 days away from an election.

On March 16, 2016, Senator Mitch McConnell stated on Fox News Sunday “The Senate has a role to play here. The president nominates, we decide to confirm. We think the important principle in the middle of this presidential year is that the American people need to weigh in and decide who’s going to make this decision. Not this lame-duck president on the way out the door, but the next president.”

Throughout the last four years, Senator McConnell and the rest of the duplicitous party hacks have all proven that the only principle they stand for is power. It is another clear reason why your vote matters so much this year and why this election is so important to working-class people.

Don’t despair about the Supreme Court

In preparation for this article, I came across a very interesting op-ed from historian Howard Zinn published in The Progressive magazine on October 21, 2005. It was entitled “Don’t Despair about the Supreme Court.” In his essay, Zinn provides strong historical evidence to formulate the following sound conclusions regarding Supreme Court appointments. His conclusions are highly relevant today and provide me with hope.

He wrote, “There is enormous hypocrisy surrounding the pious veneration of the Constitution and “the rule of law.” The Constitution, like the Bible, is infinitely flexible and is used to serve the political needs of the moment. When the country was in economic crisis and turmoil in the Thirties and capitalism needed to be saved from the anger of the poor and hungry and unemployed, the Supreme Court was willing to stretch to infinity the constitutional right to regulate interstate commerce. It decided that the national government, desperate to regulate farm production could tell a family farmer what to grow on his tiny piece of land.

“When the Constitution gets in the way of a war, it is ignored. When the Supreme Court was faced, during Vietnam, with a suit by soldiers refusing to go, claiming there had been no declaration of war by Congress, as the Constitution required, the soldiers could not get four Supreme Court justices to agree to even hear the case. When, during World War I, Congress ignored the First Amendment’s right to free speech by passing legislation to prohibit criticism of the war, the imprisonment of dissenters under this law was upheld unanimously by the Supreme Court, which included two presumably liberal and learned justices: Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis Brandeis.

“It would be naïve to depend on the Supreme Court to defend the rights of poor people, women, people of color, dissenters of all kinds. Those rights only come alive when citizens organize, protest, demonstrate, strike, boycott, rebel, and violate the law in order to uphold justice.”

“The Constitution gave no rights to working people, no right to work less than twelve hours a day, no right to a living wage, no right to safe working conditions. Workers had to organize, go on strike, defy the law, the courts, the police, create a great movement which won the eight- hour day, and caused such commotion that Congress was forced to pass a minimum wage law, and Social Security, and unemployment insurance.

“The Brown decision on school desegregation did not come from a sudden realization of the Supreme Court that this is what the Fourteenth Amendment called for. After all, it was the same Fourteenth Amendment that had been cited in the Plessy case upholding racial segregation. It was the initiative of brave families in the South—along with the fear by the government, obsessed with the Cold war, that it was losing the hearts and minds of colored people all over the world—that brought a sudden enlightenment to the Court.

“The right of a woman to an abortion did not depend on the Supreme Court decision in Roe vs. Wade. It was won before that decision, all over the country by grassroots agitation that forced states to recognize the right. If the American people, who by a great majority favor that right, insist on it, act on it, no Supreme Court decision can take it away.

“Let us not be disconsolate over the increasing control of the court system by the right-wing. The courts have never been on the side of justice, only moving a few degrees one way or the other, unless pushed by the people. Those words engraved in the marble of the Supreme Court, ‘Equal Justice Before the Law,’ have always been a sham.

“No Supreme Court, liberal or conservative, will stop the war in Iraq, or redistribute the wealth of this country, or establish free medical care for every human being. Such fundamental change will depend, the experience of the past suggests, on the actions of an aroused citizenry, demanding that the promise of the Declaration of Independence—an equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—be fulfilled.”

The time is now

The time is now for all working-class people to step up and vote. The stakes have never been higher for organized labor or for American workers. High voter turnout by the working class will best protect our collective interests and can bring about the significant and positive changes that are required in this country.

Your vote in the 2020 election will determine if the United States rejoins the global community in properly addressing climate change instead of denying scientific evidence.

Your vote in the 2020 election will determine if the United States will develop a coherent and science-based federal COVID-19 response instead of denying scientific evidence.

Your vote in the 2020 election will determine if police brutality and systemic racism end in the United States instead of having the federal government promote a false “law and order” fear-based narrative.

Your vote in the 2020 election will determine if corporations and the 1% start paying their fair share of taxes.

Workers simply cannot afford another four years of the status quo. We cannot afford another four years of extremist, anti-union federal judge appointments by the GOP. We cannot afford to have the many gains won by working people in the New Deal lost to corporate greed and special interest groups. We cannot afford another four years of denying climate change. We cannot afford to continue to lose innocent American lives to the COVID-19 virus because of an insufficient and incompetent federal response.

In 2020, we don’t have the luxury of being apathetic when it comes to politics. There must be a massive and historic voter turnout in the 2020 election to ensure a “peaceful transition of governmental power.” Once that occurs we can all focus on the important work of rebuilding America.

As Susan B. Anthony once said, “Someone struggled for your right to vote. Use it.”

In solidarity,

Ed Ferris

#Blacklivesmatter

Categories: Unions

Annual SoCal Labor Day event shifts focus from celebration to service

ILWU - Wed, 10/07/2020 - 16:24

Labor Day in the Southern California harbor area has always meant one thing—a Labor Day march through downtown Wilmington followed by a picnic at Banning Park.

But this year there were no early-morning breakfast burritos at the Longshoremen’s Memorial Hall sponsored by the Southern California Pensioners. The school marching bands, union banners, floats, classic cars and the thousands of proud union members walking side-by-side with their fellow workers were nowhere to be seen on the streets of Wilmington. There were no hamburgers or hot dogs served at Banning Park and no Brian Young Blues Station to entertain the crowd.

For the first time in 41 years, the annual event was canceled.

Instead, the unions of the LA/Long Beach Harbor Labor Coalition, including the ILWU, the Labor Community Services, and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, suited up and went to work to put on a food drive to help area families impacted by the COVID-19. The pandemic continues to spread through communities, because the federal government response has failed to meet the challenge posed by the virus. US Representatives Maxine Waters and Nanette Barragan, State Senator Maria Elena Durazo, Supervisors Janice Hahn and Hilda Solis and Los Angeles Councilmember Joe Buscaino were among the elected officials at the event.

Local 13 President Ramon Ponce de Leon spoke briefly at the event.

“On a day that the nation celebrates Labor, Labor is giving back to the community,” he said. “The Good Lord said ‘It is more blessed to give than receive.’ God bless you, brothers and sisters.”

The union-hosted food distribution helped more than 4,500 families, or 18,000 individuals, impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

“The workers in the harbor decided to turn this into a day of helping,” said Supervisor Hahn. “These workers who deserve a day off decided to work today because many people have been hurt by this pandemic. It speaks to the generosity and hospitality of unions and workers in the harbor area.”

Categories: Unions

San Pedro vigil honors RBG

ILWU - Thu, 10/01/2020 - 10:00

Scores of people gathered in San Pedro on September 21 to honor Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a candlelight vigil.

The gathering was one of many across the country to celebrate the life of Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

Ginsburg has become an icon in recent years and was the most prominent member on the Court.

Speakers included LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn, Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, LA Councilmember Joe Buscaino, LA Harbor Commissioner Diane Middleton and ILWU Local 26 President Luisa Gratz.

Middleton said that Ginsburg served as a role model for women. “When I graduated law school in 1971. there were four women in my class,’ she said. “Today in law schools, women make up 40 to 50 percent of the classes. When I arrived in San Pedro in 1978, there were only six women on the waterfront. Justice Ginsburg stood for all of these women. It wasn’t just about her landmark dissents; it was about what she showed us that could be possible.”

Gratz challenged the crowd, which included many ILWU members, to continue Ginsburg’s fight. “What is going on in the Supreme Court today is the result of our silence over the last few decades. If we don’t organize, we will live with the results,” Gratz said. “Ruth Bader Ginsberg was a unique human being. She also was a woman. She had integrity, courage, brilliance, tenacity, humility, intelligence, and was driven by factual analysis, and context that drove her perspective in the name of justice for her clients, her country, for the judicial arena, and process we evolved to, and most of all, she knew no men are free unless women are equal without litigious, economic, or structural limitation. She was amazing and unfortunately rare.  She left an abyss that many don’t yet understand. She will be and is already missed.”

Categories: Unions

Docker Podcast featuring ILWU Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris

ILWU - Fri, 09/25/2020 - 09:42

The Docker Podcast featuring special guest ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer is now live. Listen via the player below. You can subscribe to the Docker Podcast through iTunes or your Android podcast app. You can also listen to the episode at the Docker Podcast website or download the entire episode here (mp3). 

Categories: Unions

ACTION ALERT

ILWU - Mon, 09/21/2020 - 15:27

URGENT ACTION ALERT — CALL TODAY: Stop Mitch McConnell from Filling Supreme Court Vacancy and Taking Away the People’s Voice

Less than 24 hours after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced a rushed campaign to fill her seat. When it was President Obama’s turn to fill a Supreme Court seat in an election year, McConnell insisted on waiting until the next president took office, allowing the Senate to “give the people a voice in the filling of this vacancy.” That seat remained vacant until after Trump’s election. Now that the situation is reversed, McConnell, hypocritically, has no problem taking away the people’s voice in the filling of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s vacancy. It is URGENT for the future of working people and Labor that we STOP McConnell from forcing a 6/3 conservative majority on the nation’s highest court. This seat will reshape the Court, labor laws, and our nation for decades to come. Call your U.S. Senators TODAY: (202) 224-3121 Share this action alert with friends and family, especially those who live in Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Maine, South Carolina, Tennessee and Maine. Sample Script: “This is (name) from (city, state). Four years ago, Senate Republicans stopped Obama from filling a Supreme Court seat in an election year. It would be wrong to now rush to fill the seat within weeks of the election. The people should have a voice in filling this vacancy. Voters will not forget this hypocrisy in future elections. Show your constituents the respect we deserve. Allow us the November 3 election, so we can choose the President who will make this nomination that will shape our future for decades to come. My phone number is (number). Thank you.” [Remember: Forward this to your friends in Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Maine, South Carolina, Tennessee and Maine!]
Categories: Unions

Veterinary workers at CRVS ratify first private-sector union contract in the industry

ILWU - Wed, 09/09/2020 - 10:14

Rally for fair contract: National Veterinary Professionals Union Vice President Tana Greatorex speaks at a rally for CRVS workers in February of this year. Other organizations at the rally included ILWU Locals 4 and 5, the Inlandboatmen’s Union and Jobs with Justice.

Workers at Columbia River Veterinary Specialists (CRVS) in Vancouver, Washington ratified their first union contract on August 12 by an overwhelming margin of 53-1. These workers have been bargaining a contract with CRVS management for over a year, after voting to join ILWU Local 5 in February 2019. The contract is the first-ever private-sector union contract in the veterinary industry. Veterinary service is a rapidly growing, lucrative industry where workers are often faced with challenging working conditions and pay that is not commensurate with the education and skill required for the profession. In recent years, there has been massive consolidation of the industry as large companies acquire locally owned hospitals, leading to a corporate-led environment where workers’ rights and sustainable jobs for local communities too often come second to profit.

Organizing the unorganized

“This is a historic agreement that will set a new standard for wages and conditions in the veterinary industry,” said ILWU International Vice President Bobby Olvera. “I am so proud of the workers at CRVS for their grit, determination and courage. I would also like to thank the staff of the Organizing Department for their work. Organizing workers in an industry with no history of unionization is a difficult task, but also a necessary one. As the seventh guiding principle of the ILWU states; ‘To organize the unorganized must be a cardinal principle of any union worth its salt; and to accomplish this is not merely in the interest of the unorganized; it is for the benefit of the organized as well.’”

Campaign goals

Like the vast majority of first contract campaigns, this one was long and hard fought. CRVS workers began the bargaining process in February 2019. The workers had several primary goals for their first contract:

  1. Enhance worker rights beyond minimum legal (federal/state/ local) requirements;
  2. 2. Raise wages and establish a fair and transparent wage structure;
  3. Improve benefits;
  4. Secure an environment where the union would remain established and be able to improve upon the provisions won in this contract in the future.

By March 2020, like all bargaining tables, the CRVS/ILWU sessions were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, five months later, workers secured their contract.

A base to build on

The agreement was achieved through many collective actions, shows of solidarity, and productive and collaborative negotiations at the table. This is a first contract, and while not all goals were met, many were. The agreement is a marked improvement from the status quo and allows workers the opportunity to continue building the movement as they prepare for second contract negotiations in 2023.  The results of those combined efforts were:

More Workplace Rights:

  • “Just Cause” and progressive discipline standards of treatment;
  • Seniority based layoff and recall procedures;
  • Improved hospital communications such as: required all-staff meetings and establishing office hours for 1 on 1 meetings with administration to address workplace concerns;
  • Grievance Procedure to ensure contractual obligations are adhered to;

Increased Wages:

  • Increased base rate of pay for all positions;
  • Transparency on wages and wage rates;
  • Defined Differentials for additional skills/duties; • Yearly increases to the rates of pay for all positions; Better Benefits: • Increased Paid Time Off (PTO)    accrual and ability to cash out    PTO upon resignation;
  • Paid Jury Duty;
  • Bereavement for loss of a pet;
  • Improved Employee Assistance Program benefits;
  • Expanded rollover options for Continuing Education Credits;

…and a union shop where all new applicants are informed there is a union contract in place before they apply, and a structure whereby the union is able to effectively administer the contract and support workers on the job.

Setting a new standard: ILWU International President Willie Adams posted a solidarity photo on social media in support of workers at CRVS. After the vote ratification, the ILWU Titled Officers wrote a letter to the employer, congratulating them on reaching a fair agreement

Many workers whose wages have languished under corporatized veterinary medicine are now receiving their first increase in years under the agreement. Tracie Vestal, Licensed Veterinary Technician (LVT) stated: “Since I had not received any meaningful wage increase from CRVS over my five years of employment, I had the lowest hourly wage of any technician with my experience, education, and skillset. This did not reflect the unique role I served in the hospital as the sole LVT expert in laboratory diagnostics. I had considered sub-standard pay par for the course as a veterinary technician and had been debating applying my skills to human medicine/public health sectors, in order to be more financially sound. This was an agonizing consideration given my deep and abiding love and dedication This equity in pay will set CRVS apart as being a leading employer in the local veterinary community.

“I am extremely hopeful that this inaugural contract with veterinary professionals will serve as a model for everyone in this country and prove that negotiating across the employer/ employee divide benefits everyone (most importantly the patients).”

But as all union members know, the struggle is never over. ILWU Local 5 administrators are already building for the next phase of these efforts to ensure that workers are prepared to defend their gains and organize for future negotiations.

Katt Bennett, LVT, Veterinary Technician Specialist (Small Animal Internal Medicine) who was a member of the Member Action Team and instrumental in organizing every solidarity action, including picket lines and rallies, reflects on the struggle and looks to the future:

“It took CRVS over two years to accomplish this feat and this contract is only the first step toward making veterinary medicine a viable career during this time of corporate greed. It will provide veterinary workers with protections, wage equality, and establish a foothold for continued improvements in working conditions. Hopefully hospitals throughout the nation will follow suit, including veterinarians. This is a long journey, but we owe it to ourselves, our clients, and especially our patients to keep pushing for justice and fairness in our hospitals.”

Categories: Unions

Remembering our roots: Local 5 marks 20-year anniversary

ILWU - Tue, 09/08/2020 - 11:10

Forming ILWU Local 5: EXCERPTS from No Decisions About Us Without Us
By Kristin Russ

[ILWU Local 5 was chartered on August 10, 2000, after a two-year organizing and contract campaign by 400 workers at Powell’s Books in Portland, OR. The organizing effort began in 1998 when the company restructured jobs and significantly reduced raises for workers. Powell’s workers filed for a union election on March 12, 1999.  On April 22, they made history by voting to join the union and becoming the nation’s largest union bookstore. In honor of Local 5’s 20-year anniversary, we are running excerpts from, No Decisions About Us Without US.]

Workers Take Action: September 1998

Fighting for a first contract: Workers at Powell’s Books demonstrate in support of their efforts to win their first contract. ILWU Local 5 was chartered on August 10, 2000, after a two-year organizing and contract campaign by over 400 workers at Powell’s.

[Powell’s] employee, the late Marty Kruse, knew his coworkers were upset about the changes, and he decided to take action. The day the email was issued, he wandered around the Burnside store carrying a cardboard sign under his shirt. On it was scrawled: “If you’re pissed off, meet at Ringlers Annex at 11pm.” He flashed his message to fellow booksellers whom he thought might be sympathetic. In answer, about a dozen workers met covertly to discuss their options. The atmosphere that night was heavy with paranoia—even a random bar patron in a cowboy hat was seen as an informant for management. Not knowing how to take the next step, the group decided to seek guidance from representatives with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). One week later, these representatives met with an expanded group of employees, more representative of the broader Powell’s workforce. Once employees began talking, they realized that the wage changes were not their most important concern. Many employees found that lack of management accountability and lack of respect, as well as a loss of specialization in their jobs, were common issues of contention.

Searching and Striving for a Union

[The] new Organizing Committee worked toward a quick declaration of which union they wanted to represent them. It wasn’t long before the Committee determined that the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) was the best choice for their needs. Under the ILWU banner they were able to charter their own Local, which would be a self-governing, independent division of the larger union.  This Local would function in the same democratic, inclusive and militant tradition of the ILWU. They would no longer be isolated employees of Powell’s Books. They became ILWU Local 5.

Management began to take action to quell the support for the union among employees. By holding informational meetings and sending out letters explaining the ills a union would bring, management vied for employees’ attention. On November 12th, 1998 a letter was sent out to employees on Powell’s letterhead, attempting to dispel rumors of upcoming corporate changes and to show what the company had done for its employees. In efforts to convince employees that a union was not necessary, the corporate managers advised: “We also want to alert people to the fact that if you don’t want to be represented by a union, if you don’t think it’s the right thing for Powell’s, your rights to oppose unionization are protected by law just as much as your coworkers’ rights to support unionization are.” The corporate managers played on the anxieties and affection of its employees, stressing that the uniqueness of Powell’s would be under threat and possible ruin with a union.

Despite Management’s efforts to sway employee interests in its favor, on March 12, 1999 Local 5 had collected enough signed Union Authorization Cards to file for a union certification election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). On that rainy Friday afternoon, a rally was held outside Powell’s Burnside store in celebration of the filing. Employees held signs urging a “Fast and Fair Election”. Local 5 had one month to generate the support it needed to win the election. In another testimonial, John McMahon asked fellow Powellsians: “Should Michael Powell be left to speak for all of us, or should we have a strong voice in shaping the future of both this company and the community it serves?”

Vet Pet Care Pioneers: Pictured here are members of the Northwest Veterinary Specialists bargaining committee. NWVS workers were among the first veterinary workers who voted to unionize on the West Coast. Local 5 represents about one hundred veterinary workers at the Northwest Veterinary Services VCA, ranging from receptionists, kennel caretakers, to certified technicians.

On April 22nd, that question was answered. The ILWU was accepted as the union for Powell’s bookstore. Local 5 was official! The vote was close at 161-155. With 90% of the 350 eligible employees casting ballots, only 6 votes had determined the future of Powell’s Books and its employees.  It wasn’t a strong win, but it was a win that would take everyone into a promising, albeit tentative, future. The next nine months were spent organizing toward bargaining efforts, electing a bargaining team, and surveying employee wants and needs. On September 14th, 1999, exactly one year after Corporate’s compensation email and that first meeting of exasperated workers, the Powell’s Bargaining Team and the Local 5 Bargaining Team met across the table for the first time.

The End and The Beginning

The end of bargaining came after almost 11 months and 53 bargaining sessions, with hard feelings on both sides of the table and much conflict within the Portland community. Powell’s Burnside bookstore had become a mecca for the liberal-minded city of Portland, and the ongoing internal rift had been a source of community distress for too long. The hard-won agreement became a commitment to get back to the selling of books. Everyone was ready to move on, although some were uncertain what a unionized Powell’s would mean.

The proposed contract included more than 18% in wage increases over three years; a protection of current health care benefits; and a closed shop. The union lost in the fight for a successor rights clause; however, it was not a big loss as there was no imminent fear that Michael Powell would sell. But if, for example, a future employer should decide to contest the union, then by law a new vote for unionization would take place. Any strongly organized union should have no problem winning such a vote—yet another reason why it is in the best interest of the Local 5 and its members to maintain a good and healthy union.

Growing Seeds Bargaining Committee: Workers at the childcare chain Growing seeds in Portland voted to unionize and join Local 5 March 2020.

After a long struggle, Powell’s bookstore had defied the doubts of the retail business and completed what it set out to do—build a strong union. The vote to ratify the contract was a resounding victory at 293-37. A statement at the time from Mary Winzig, who was about to be Local 5’s first President, spoke to the fatigue of Local 5 bargainers and their satisfaction with the results: “I think we got everything we were looking for. It’s a great first contract.” Corporate Manager Ann Smith stated, “Yes, there’s relationship mending to do. But I look forward to moving on the the next chapter. It’s a good contract; it gives us a good foundation to build on.”

It took two years of fighting and rallying, multiple appeals for support from the Portland community, many ULP protests, and one powerful and united workforce to gain a precious first contract, ensuring protection of the livelihood of Powell’s employees. ‘No Decisions About Us Without Us’ had been the proclamation that reverberated throughout the aisles of Powell’s Books and had given a voice to its workers. And this new voice needed to be guarded. Setting the tone for the future of Local 5 and Powell’s, Union member Meredith Schafer stated, “The only way we get what’s in that contract is if we stay together and keep on working. The contract is not a gift—we worked for it and we’ll work to keep it.”

Afterword, The Years Since

In the years following that initial contract, Local 5 has continued to fight and continued to grow. Now with the 7th contract at Powell’s, the agreement has progressed and developed through negotiations, grievances and precedents set. The workers have continued to make gains with the most recent contract providing for over $3 in wage increases over a four-year agreement as well as maintenance of other benefits such as healthcare and PTO. The workers at Powell’s have continued to play a pivotal role in making sure Local 5 is a well-run union and continue the democratic traditions on which it was founded.

One thing has changed significantly over the years, Local 5 is no longer the “Powell’s Union” as it was initially referred to. Local 5 now represents workers from across a diverse set of industries: in foodservice is Aramark workers at the Evergreen State College in Olympia; in museums is Oregon Historical Society; in veterinary medicine is Columbia River Veterinary Specialists and Northwest Veterinary Specialists and in early learning education is Growing Seeds Learning Center. Local 5 is on the move and continues to embrace those workers who are taking a stand in their workplace and demanding better wages, benefits and working conditions. It’s a tradition 20 years in the making and one the Local looks forward to maintaining for another 20 years and beyond. Forward Ever – Backward Never!

 

Categories: Unions

SFVS workers strike to protest illegal actions by their employer, VCA-Mars

ILWU - Tue, 09/08/2020 - 10:37

Workers at San Francisco Veterinary Specialists (SFVS), walked-off the job on July 30 to protest federal labor law violations by their employer, VCA-Mars.  The “Unfair Labor Practices” strike was triggered by a new charge that the ILWU filed against the company and by a new complaint issued by the Federal Government, alleging the hospital committed a host of federal labor law violations.

Solidarity and social distancing

Workers held a small rally outside of the hospital in San Francisco’s Mission District following proper COVID safety protocols, while community supporters and clients listened to the rally speakers over Zoom and participated in a car caravan that circled the hospital.  In 2018, workers at SFVS voted by a 3-to-1 margin to form a union and affiliate with ILWU Local 6. Since that time, they have been trying to negotiate their first contract. Meanwhile, the company has hired anti-union consultants and lawyers to avoid reaching an agreement. The company refused to meet more than one day per month for bargaining until recently, when they finally agreed to meet twice per month to settle a NLRB complaint for bargaining in bad faith in violation of federal law. Standing with Katy

During the strike, workers, community members, and clients also rallied in support of Katy Bradley, an outspoken union supporter, bargaining committee member, and advocate for better patient care who was fired by VCA-Mars hours after the employer was notified that charges were being filed against them for violating federal law. Bradley has been an exemplary employee at SFVS for nearly eight years where she worked as a lead veterinary technician.  “VCA-Mars can lock me out but they can’t keep me from bargaining for a fair contract,” Bradley said during an emotional speech. “We’ve been trying to reach an agreement for 27 months to improve this hospital as well as the pet-care industry. We want a fair contract that mutually benefits the hospital and the employees that work here. We want to improve the staffing ratios so that we can continue to provide the best patient care possible. Despite how reasonable our asks are, VCA-Mars continues to stall bargaining and deny that they can hear our calls.” The big business of vet care

The veterinary care industry is a lucrative, multi-billion-dollar business built on the backs of a workforce that is underpaid for their high level of skill and education. In 2017, the Mars Corporation quietly purchased SFVS, along with hundreds of other animal hospitals and clinics, for $9.1 billion. Mars is a privately-held company famous for their M&M candies. Mars now controls a large share of America’s animal care industry, along with ownership of IAM’s and Pedigree brand pet foods, and other animal-linked assets. Mars has come under fire in recent months by civil rights activists for the negative racial stereo depicted in the packaging of their Uncle Ben’s brand rice products. The company has also been criticized by human rights activists for using slave labor in the production of their cocoa products.

“The ILWU is proud to stand behind Katy and all of the workers at SFVS who are fighting VCA-Mars to improve patient care and reach a fair contract. VCA-Mars is not the first billion-dollar corporation the ILWU has faced. We won those battles and will win this one too,” said ILWU International President Willie Adams.

Support from elected officials

The action drew statements of support from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and San Francisco Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Dean Preston.

“Recent developments represent a troubling deterioration of labor negotiations. This week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ordered VCA-SFVS to respond to charges of retaliation and termination based on employees’ protected union activity and refusal to bargain in good faith. And last week, ILWU filed an Unfair Labor Practice complaint and 10-J Injunction for the termination of Katy Bradley, a union supporter who rose through the ranks at VCASFVS to her role as lead veterinary technician,” Speaker Pelosi wrote in a letter to the employer.

Supervisor Ronen stated in her letter to the company: “When a company knowingly attacks workers or undermines worker support, that company attacks our community. As the community–elected representative of the city’s 9th District I request that you reinstate Katy Bradley, cease all anti-union activity and you return to good faith bargaining. A quick resolution that is mutually beneficial to all parties is what our community grows and thrives on.”

District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston wrote in a letter the employer, “I have closely followed the multi-year effort of the VCA union. I have been impressed by how committed and serious these professionals are, diligently trying to improve their place of employment for the benefit of workers and patients. Naturally, we expect their employer at VCA – Mars Corporation – not to undermine workers.   “Like most, until I became familiar with the VCA workers’ union, I was unaware of the size and nature of Mars’ investment and growth in the pet care industry. I would hope that a multi-billion dollar company would be thoughtful in disciplinary action towards an employee, particularly during a pandemic and during contract negotiation. I am concerned not only by the report of the termination of Ms. Bradley, but also reports of zero cost of living adjustments, raises or any proactive policy in support of the workers at SFVS during this health crisis, as well as a reduction of hours for support staff and increased patient load on reduced staff.”

The strike, which lasted less than an hour, is an “unfair labor practice” strike, because it responds directly to illegal conduct by the employer, rather than concerns about working standards, such as high-turnover, short-staffing and patient care, problems that have also plagued SFVS.

Liz Hughston from the National Veterinary Professionals Union, called into the rally via Zoom and spoke about the central role Katy has played in the effort to unionize the veterinary industry. “Katy is the reason that unionization in the veterinary industry is as far along as it is,” said Hughston. “Katy started this mission at SFVS. She is the one who connected the veterinary industry with the ILWU and without her we would not be fighting for the rights of veterinary workers to the extent we are today.”

SFVS worker David Lesseps closed the rally out, saying that workers will outlast the company’s efforts to undermine the union. “We have been targeted. We have been threatened. They have tried to wear us down but we are not tired, we are not stopping,” he said.

 

Categories: Unions

Explosion at the Port of Beirut puts spotlight on lax maritime regulations

ILWU - Tue, 09/08/2020 - 10:21

Aftermath: The warehouse blast decimated the Port of Beirut and killed scores of port and maritime workers.

On August 4, two devastating explosions occurred at the Port of Beirut, the capital of Lebanon. The second explosion, caused by the ignition of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, leveled the port and killed at least 177 people, including seafarers, longshore and other port workers. The blast left an estimated 300,000 people homeless and caused billions of dollars in damage throughout the city. The ammonium nitrate had been confiscated by the Lebanese government from the abandoned ship, the MV Rhosus, and then stored at the port for six years without safety measures.

 ILWU statement

The day after the explosion, ILWU International President Willie Adams released the following statement: “International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) workers on the West Coast of the United States and Canada grieve the tremendous losses that Beirut is suffering following an explosion of stored material at a port warehouse. While the chaos of the explosion has yet to reveal the full scope of human loss, we are heartbroken to learn that longshore workers lost their lives when their worksite became ground zero for the catastrophic explosion. The city of Beirut and thousands of families will never be the same.

“Reports that the Lebanese government has put port authorities under house arrest while investigating the dubious storage of these explosive materials on the docks since 2014, and the likelihood that these deaths were preventable, are deeply disturbing but not surprising developments to those of us who work on the waterfront. Employers, port authorities and government agencies should always hold safety paramount on the waterfront – but, left unchecked, complacency and profit motive too often put workers’ lives at risk. The shocking images we are seeing in the news illustrate why dockworker unions fight for safety on the docks and the safe movement of cargo: to protect our lives and communities.

The ILWU is closely monitoring the developments at the Port of Beirut, and we will determine the best way to assist when the facts become clearer. On behalf of my fellow Titled Officers, the Coast Committeemen and the rank and file membership, I extend our profound condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of the dockworkers and the people of Beirut.“

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) also issued a statement: “On behalf of the ITF and our 700 affiliates from around the world, we send our sincerest condolences and sympathies to all of those impacted by these terrible explosions. The ITF and our affiliates stand in solidarity with all of you, your members, colleagues, families and the people of Lebanon at this incredibly sad time,” they wrote. “We mourn this terrible tragedy alongside you and express our deep condolences to families who have lost their loved ones and wish the injured a quick recovery.’

ITF affiliated unions in Lebanon include the General Confederation of Drivers and Transport Workers in Lebanon (GCDTW), the Union of Beirut Port Employees (UBPE), the Syndicate of Middle East Airlines and Affiliate Companies (MEA), the Lebanese Cabin Crew Association (LCCA) and the Lebanese Seaman’s Syndicate (LSS).

 Profits over people

Protests erupted in the aftermath of the explosion that resulted in the resignation of Lebanese government officials including the Prime Minister. But the gross negligence of the government is only part of the story.  In an opinion piece published in The Guardian, Laleh Khalili, Professor of International Politics at Queen Mary University of London, argues that the roots of the catastrophic explosion run “to a network of maritime capital and legal chicanery that is designed to protect businesses at any cost.” At the heart of this “network of legal chicanery” is the “flag of convenience” (FoC) practice that prioritizes the profits of shipping companies over the health and safety of seafarers and port workers, Khalili argues.

Flag of convenience

The FoC practice allows shipping companies to register a ship in a country other than that of the ship’s owners to avoid oversight, regulations, and accountability. Such ships are registered to (and fly the flags of) countries with the weakest labor, environmental, and health and safety regulations.

 The beginning of the tragedy

In her article, Khalili begins the story of the Beirut Port explosion in 2013, when the Russian-owned MV Rhosus, registered to a company in Bulgaria and flagged in Moldova, set sail from Georgia to Mozambique with a cargo of ammonium nitrate. The 30-year old vessel had a hole in its hull requiring water to be pumped out to stop it from sinking. It was operated by a crew of eight Ukrainians and two Russians who were unaware that the previous crew had left the ship in protest of the non-payment of their wages by the ship’s owner.

The Rhosus stopped in Beirut to earn extra cash by picking up additional cargo of heavy machinery. Inspectors were alerted when the ship’s decks buckled under the weight. It was declared “unseaworthy” and Lebanese officials impounded the vessel for failure to pay charges including port fees. The owner filed for bankruptcy, abandoning the ship, its cargo, and its crew in the Port of Beirut.  Port authorities refused to allow four of the seafarers off the ship without a replacement crew.

The captain and remaining crew were trapped aboard the ship—with its 2,750 tons of explosive cargo—for almost a year with no wages, no access to electronic communications, and with dwindling food and fuel provisions, until a Lebanese court intervened and ordered them to be released.  The cargo of ammonium nitrate was confiscated and stored in a warehouse at the port–where it remained until it exploded on August 4.  “Flags of convenience are essentially an offshoring tool intended to protect capital, allowing unsafe ships to sail with crews who are vulnerable to the depredations of unscrupulous employers. Even the wealthiest shipping companies in the world, with headquarters in Europe and east Asia, flag their ships to open registries to save on wages, taxes and insurance,” Khalili concluded.

“The removal of these offshoring provisions, eliminating flags of convenience, and an overhaul of the arbitration mechanisms that so often disadvantage seafarers and less powerful states are only the first steps towards addressing the malfeasance that created [the August 4] tragedy. As the dust settles in Beirut, there is a great deal of work to be done.”

The ITF says that until there is a “genuine link between the flag a ship flies and the nationality or residence of its owners,” abuses will continue.”

Categories: Unions

ILWU Legislative Director Lindsay McLaughlin retires

ILWU - Tue, 09/08/2020 - 10:12

Screenshot of C-Span broadcast of ILWU Legislative Director Lindsay McLaughlin speaking before Congress.

ILWU Legislative Director Lindsay McLaughlin retired on August 14 after serving the union for over 30 years.  Lindsay’s many contributions to the ILWU and his work with the Legislative Action Committee have left a lasting imprint on the union and membership.   During his tenure as Legislative Director, Lindsay successfully navigated many rounds of contract negotiations, worked diligently to protect our health care and retirement benefits, advocated for investments on the waterfront, defended the Jones Act, and ensured the wellbeing of future ILWU members for years to come.

At the July 17 International Executive Board meeting held over Zoom, IEB members thanked Lindsay for his decades of work.  “I’ve known Lindsay for almost 30 years. This organization owes you a debt of gratitude,” said ILWU International President Willie Adams.  “Thank you for all the years of service. You’ve been a true warrior.”  “One thing you’ve demonstrated was never to be intimidated by these politicians—they work for us,” said Executive Board member Dan McKisson. “You’ve always done a great job for us and I really appreciate it.” Lindsay recalled how he actively pursued a job with the ILWU.

“When the job came open, the first thing I did was read a biography of Harry Bridges and that got me very excited about the ILWU. I wanted the job very badly because I knew this was union with principles,” he said. “I got so hyped-up, I even grew a long mustache so I could look older. I was 27 years old at the time and I thought the union might want someone with more experience.” Lindsay thanked the Titled Officers and Executive Board members for the opportunity to serve the ILWU membership for 30 years. “I may be retiring but I will never leave the ILWU. If the union needs anything from me, I will be there,” he said. Lobbyist Kyle Mulhall, who has

worked with the ILWU Legislative Office since 2015, will be handling the transition of duties for the ILWU Legislative Office.  We wish Lindsay all the best in his retirement and thank him for his many years of service to the union.

Categories: Unions

ILWU’s 10 Guiding Principles Webinar

ILWU - Tue, 08/25/2020 - 13:07

The ILWU is hosting a webinar on September 22, 2020 as part of our leadership education programming.  The online event, The ILWU’s Values: Members reflect on the Ten Guiding Principles will feature leaders from across the union discussing the role of the ILWU’s Ten Guiding Principles in their work and union life.

The Ten Guiding Principles were developed in 1953 to codify the cardinal values upon which the ILWU was built.  Since they were first written, the principles have served as a guidepost to ILWU leaders in their work within the union and the broader community.  This webinar will highlight some of the work that union members have done that reflects the ILWU’s values through the lens of the Principles.  Panelists will share personal stories that illustrate how the ILWU’s Principles have applied to their work.

The webinar is open to members and affiliates in good standing with preference given to active members.  Those interested in attending may register by clicking the link below.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Please register online no later than 5 p.m. on September 18, 2020

Questions may be addressed to Educational Services Director Robin Walker at robin.walker@ilwu.org

 

Categories: Unions

The Docker Podcast with special guest ILWU President Willie Adams

ILWU - Mon, 08/17/2020 - 14:13

The Docker Podcast featuring special guest ILWU International President Willie Adams is now live. Listen via the player below. You can subscribe to the Docker Podcast through iTunes or your Android podcast app. You can also listen to the episode at the Docker Podcast website.

Categories: Unions

Veterinary Workers at CRVS Ratify First Private-Sector Union Contract in the Industry

ILWU - Thu, 08/13/2020 - 10:17

VANCOUVER, WASHINGTON – Workers at Columbia River Veterinary Specialists (CRVS) in Vancouver, Washington ratified their first union contract last night by an overwhelming margin of 53-1. Workers have been bargaining a contract with CRVS management for over a year, after voting to join the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 5 in February 2019.

This historic contract is the first-ever private-sector union contract in the veterinary industry, a rapidly growing, lucrative field where workers are often faced with challenging working conditions and pay that is not commensurate with the education and skill required for the profession. In recent years, there has been massive consolidation of the industry as locally owned hospitals are acquired by large companies, leading to a corporate-led environment where workers’ rights and sustainable jobs for local communities too often come second.

“This contract is only the first step toward making veterinary medicine a viable career during this time of corporate greed. [Our contract] will provide veterinary workers with protections, wage equality, and establish a foothold for continued improvements in working conditions,” explains Kat Bennett, LVT VTS (SAIM) at CRVS.

Despite this spring’s unprecedented disruption due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the worker-led bargaining committee and CRVS management worked together remotely to continue negotiations and arrive at an agreement. Highlights from the contract include a Just Cause standard of protection (rather than “at-will employment) with regards to discipline/termination, and fair policies for determining lay-offs and recalls based on a seniority system.

Workers also advocated for an equitable and transparent wage structure that would create a fair living wage for all hospital workers. The first contract achieved a number of victories on this front. All workers will be compensated via an agreed-upon wage structure, including differentials for overnight work, additional certifications and demonstrated proficiency, and seniority tiers. The agreement, which is retroactive to January 1, 2020, also includes yearly Cost of Living wage adjustments in 2021, 2022 and 2023. When the contract is implemented, workers are projected to see an average wage increase of about 7%. By the end of the agreement in June 2023, current CRVS employees will see, on average, a 17% increase in pay. Raising wages in the veterinary industry will help retain and attract qualified, dedicated staff to CRVS and allow staff to support themselves and their families.

“Since I had not received any meaningful wage increase from CRVS over my five years of employment, I had the lowest hourly wage of any technician with my experience, education, and skillset,” explained Tracie Vestal, an LVT at CRVS. “I had considered substandard pay par for the course as a veterinary technician and had been debating leaving the industry. This was an agonizing consideration given my deep and abiding love and dedication to the veterinary profession.”

Thanks to CRVS’s new union contract, employees like Vestal will be able to make veterinary medicine a sustainable career. CRVS will also benefit by retaining dedicated and experienced employees who have a passion for veterinary medicine. According to Vestal, “This equity in pay will set CRVS apart as being a leading employer in the local veterinary community.”

Looking forward, CRVS workers recognize that the fight for higher standards, safe working conditions, and living wages in the veterinary industry stretches far beyond Columbia River. Veterinary workers throughout the country continue to organize, support each other, and advocate for a stronger and more equitable veterinary industry. CRVS’s union contract has shown veterinary workers and hospitals across the country that it is possible to create a fair union contract that benefits all parties.

“Hopefully hospitals throughout the nation will follow suit, including veterinarians,” says Bennett. “This is a long journey, but we owe it to ourselves, our clients, and especially our patients to keep pushing for justice and fairness in our hospitals.”

Categories: Unions

Local 94 will donate lunches for volunteers at Dodger Stadium COVID-19 testing site (CBSLA video)

ILWU - Tue, 08/11/2020 - 15:45

ILWU Local 94 members will donate lunch Wednesday to 100 firefighters and volunteers testing Angelenos for COVID-19 at Dodger Stadium.

Lunch will be provided from San Pedro Fish Market.

The food donations are made possible thanks to generous donations from Local 94 members.

The union has been feeding healthcare workers and first responders throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and has made donations to church food banks in the Harbor area.

Categories: Unions

U.S. Senators on Agriculture Committee urge foreign grain companies to reach ILWU agreement

ILWU - Tue, 08/11/2020 - 15:28
Attacks on ILWU pensions, health care threaten America’s farmers and stability of industry, say sponsors of Grain Standards Reauthorization Act

 

Grainhandlers from ILWU Locals 4, 8, 19, 21 and 23 have been united for decades in their fight for good jobs in the Pacific Northwest’s export terminals, and ILWU solidarity remains strong as we continue to fight for a fair contract.

Two U.S. Senators directed harsh words at foreign-owned grain company officials during the AgricultureCommittee’s markup of the Grain Standards Reauthorization Act in Washington, D.C. on June 24.

The grain companies – Marubeni, Mitsui and Louis Dreyfus – are failing to negotiate in good faith with ILWU grainhandler locals in the Northwest, while U.S.-based TEMCO reached an ILWU agreement more than two years ago.

Ranking Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said, “I have hear troubling reports that certain foreign-owned grain companies may be failing to make good-faith efforts to reach an agreement with their workers. These protracted and contentious negotiations ultimately harm the workers, the American farmers who want certainty, and the American company that has already put in the work to come to an agreement. I would urge all parties to engage in the process in good faith. If left unresolved, these negotiations will undermine certainty for everyone involved in the grain trade, which is the purpose of our meeting today.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) echoed Sen. Stabenow’s comments,
adding, “I am deeply concerned by what is happening to the workers at some of our nation’s largest grain export terminals in the Pacific North-west. It is my understanding that six terminals, owned either by Louis Dreyfus, a Dutch firm, and two Japanese conglomerates, have refused to negotiate in good faith with the men
and women who have worked at these ports for 70 years.”

American company reaches agreement

The grain multinationals that Brown called out in fact allowed their collective bargaining agreement with ILWU grain locals to expire in May of 2018, while U.S.-based TEMCO broke away from their fellow employers to reach an agreement with the ILWU at its three export terminals in Tacoma, Kalama and Portland. The foreign companies include Louis Dreyfus, operating in Portland and Seattle; Mitsui-owned United Grain in Vancouver, and Marubeni-owned Columbia Grain in Portland.

“These companies, with annual revenue in the tens of billions, are asking skilled workers to give up their pensions and their healthcare,” said Sen.

Brown. “As this Committee knows, the value of the Grain Standards Act is that our trading partners can count on the quality and integrity of U.S. grains. If we allow this Act to be undermined, whether by future privatization of inspectors or by the undermining of the skilled workforce at these terminals, we will ultimately hurt the very farmers that count on us.”

Attacks on benefits

“All three of the foreign grain companies began the bargaining pro-
cess by demanding ILWU workers

forfeit long-standing health and welfare benefits and work rules that took decades and much sacrifice to negotiate,” said Coast Committeeman Cam Williams. “Company officials have
refused to budge on their takeaway demands while remaining profitable and putting the stability of the entire grain export industry at risk.”

Concessionary demands from the grain conglomerates include:

• Removing ILWU members from a healthy “green zone” pension plan with over 100% funding and trying to force workers into an inferior retirement plan.
• Cutting health benefits and shifting cost onto workers and family
members.

“Our families cannot and will not give up living standards that American workers have fought so hard to win,” said Jared Smith, a grainhandler at the United Grain terminal and President of ILWU Local 4. “Our families deserve a secure present and future from these foreign-owned companies that are highly profitable and control much of the world’s grain supply. They’re supposed to negotiate, not dictate.”

A Christmas lump of coal

The foreign companies’ “take-it-or-leave-it” approach has effectively ended meaningful negotiations since
the spring of 2019. Marubeni tried and failed to use heavy-handed legal tactics last year against more than 100 grain workers in Portland by filing a specious law- suit the week of Christmas in 2018 and serving legal papers at employees’ homes that demanded up to $250,000 in damages from each family.

A U.S. District Court subsequently dismissed the employer’s harassment lawsuit, but Marubeni has appealed in an apparent attempt to make the ILWU waste money on legal fees. Such suits have long been considered illegal “unfair labor practices” by the National Labor Relations Board.

ILWU stands in good faith

ILWU grainhandlers remain committed to reaching a fair agreement with the companies, noting that the TEMCO agreement they reached in 2018 protects working families, assures no disruptions in grain exports, and maintains a highly skilled workforce in export terminals that benefit farmers, workers and the U.S. economy.

“We won’t allow big foreign corporations to bully workers into giving away long-established pension and health-care benefits earned by 3,000 American workers in Oregon and Washington,”
said ILWU International President Willie Adams. “We’re committed to working with America’s farmers to ensure that grain exports get the government inspections needed by overseas customers. But we can’t allow foreign corporations to attack the health, welfare and pensions of American workers and then receive a government seal of approval for their exports. It’s time for these ‘big three’ conglomerates to bargain in good faith for the benefit of American workers and farmers.”

“These workers have been on the job without a contract for the past two years,” said Sen. Brown. “It’s past time for these terminal operators to come back to the negotiating table and hash out a fair and amicable agreement with workers. It is my hope that my colleagues will join me in prioritizing these workers over the profits of these foreign-owned corporations.”

Categories: Unions

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