ILWU holds regional organizing talks

ILWU - Sun, 10/20/2019 - 16:04

Challenging discussions: The ILWU’s International Subcommittee on Organizing met in Tacoma in early October. Discussions and new ideas were encouraged from over 30 participants who included rank-and-file members, officers and organizing staff.

ILWU’s International Officers have launched a series of regional meetings aimed at sharpening the union’s approach to organizing. The most recent involved a meeting and workshop for the Puget Sound Region that was held at Local 23 and attracted 30 participants.

“Our goal,” says ILWU Vice President (Mainland) Bobby Olvera, Jr., “is to involve leaders from every part of the union to come together, share ideas, consider different strategies and find ways to participate in the organizing process.” Olvera is coordinating the discussions which are open to local union officers as well as rank-and- file members.

Members of the International Executive Board volunteered to serve on the Organizing Subcommittee earlier this year. The Committee’s first meeting took place in Los Angeles at Local 26 on June 25-26. Future events will be scheduled in other regions, beginning with the Columbia River on January 27-28, 2020.

At the Puget Sound meeting, Lead Organizer Jon Brier gave a presentation that framed the discussion around long-term changes in marine cargo logistics – and how those changes are impacting union jobs and ILWU power. Participants then broke into regional groups to identify examples of supply chain solidarity in recent ILWU and IBU campaigns, assess the strengths and challenges in those fights, and explore strategies for new organizing.

Those participating in the Tacoma meeting included leaders and members from Locals 9, 19, 22, 23, 47, 52, the Inlandboatmen’s Union (ILWU Marine Division) National Office and Puget Sound Region, and the Alaska Longshore Division (ALD) and ALD Unit 60.

IBU Secretary-Treasurer Terri Mast attended with some newer IBU members. “They told me the meeting made them feel empowered by learning what it means to organize along the supply chain,” said Mast. “It was refreshing to see the different divisions of our union coming together to talk honestly about our past mistakes and disagreements – part of the process we need to build real solidarity.”

Members of the International Organizing Committee include Local 6 Secretary-Treasurer Chris Castaing, Local 5 Union Representative Myka Dubay, Local 63-OCU President John Fageaux, Local 63 President Joe Gasparov, Local 26 President Luisa Gratz, Local 22 President Dax Koho, Local 23 President Dean McGrath, Local 19 member Dan McKisson and IBU President Marina Secchitano. Staff included Organizing Director Ryan Dowling, Puget Sound Lead Organizer Jon Brier, and Columbia River Organizer Ryan Takas.

“Organizing is crucial to our union and this meeting gave me a chance to hear from leaders and organizing staff about what lies ahead,” said International Executive Board member Dan McKisson from Local 19, who added that he liked the mix of senior and younger people who attended. “I also appreciate the effort to hold talks in every region, and identify local targets and criteria. The meeting was a great step towards ramping up our organizing to a new level.”

Categories: Unions

Gabriel Prawl, first African American President of ILWU Local 52

ILWU - Fri, 10/18/2019 - 12:10

Local 52 President Garbriel Prawl

In January of this year, Gabriel Prawl was elected the first African-American President of the ILWU Clerks Local 52. Prawl was born in Panama. He immigrated to New York when he was 15 to join his parents who had moved there in the late 60s and early 70s. The Prawl family has been migrating to America since the early 1900s from Jamaica and Europe, he said.   At the age of 16, Prawl moved to the Pacific Northwest, but after graduating high school, he returned to New York where he lived for 11 years before finally returning to Seattle in his early 30s. He started working as a causal at

Local 19 in 1994. He was introduced to the work through his uncle and some friends who were casuals at the time. “I became active in the ILWU after getting my A-book,” Prawl said. “I requested to be a part of the Local 19 Education Committee, and eventually became the chair in 2004. When I started learning about the real history of the ILWU—that is what inspired me.” He was also elected to the Local 19 Executive Board for five years and also attended the Leadership, Education and Development program put on by the Coast Longshore Division. Prawl said that he was influenced by many of the rank-and-file activists from Local 10. “Leo Robinson was a mentor to me,” he said.

Gabriel Prawl, first African American President of ILWU Local 52 Prawl transferred to Local 52 in 2010 after suffering a rotator cuff injury. He was elected to several leadership positions at Local 52, serving on the Labor Relations Committee for four years and as Vice President for two years. He ran for President of Local 52 with the encouragement of outgoing President Max Vekich.  In addition to his leadership position in the union, Prawl also serves as the Seattle chapter President of the A Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), an organization of Black Trade Unionists who fight for racial equality and economic justice. Through his position at the APRI, Prawl sits on the Board of the Washington State Labor Council. “I want to be in a leadership position so I can make a difference,” Prawl said. My goal is to make sure we educate our members, build solidarity within our membership, and make connections with organizations outside our union.”

Categories: Unions

Educate, Agitate and Organize: The 4th Young Workers Conference inspires a new generation of leaders

ILWU - Fri, 10/18/2019 - 11:23

Past, present and future leaders: Over 200 delegates and guests attended the fourth ILWU Young Workers Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Over 200 registered delegates and guests gathered at the Maritime Labour Centre in Vancouver, B.C., from September 4-6 for the fourth biennial ILWU Young Workers Conference. This was the largest Young Workers Conference yet with the largest delegation of workers from the ILWU International. In addition to impressive membership turnout from Canada and the U.S., this meeting had the largest number of international delegates with workers from Australia, Indonesia, Poland, Croatia, and the United Kingdom.

Recognizing the First Nations

ILWU Canada’s Second Vice President Dan Kask began the conference by acknowledging and thanking the First Nations people’s, on whose land the conference was held. A moment of silence followed to honor all union members who passed since the last Young Workers Conference.

In his introductory remarks, Kask said the purpose of the conference was to build worker power by providing young workers with the tools and space to organize. “This year’s theme, ‘Educate, Agitate and Organize,’ contains three words that you will hear in any discussion about the history and struggle of the ILWU,” said Kask in his opening remarks. “This conference is about providing the next generation an opportunity to write the ongoing history of militant rank-and-file unionism. If we want to strengthen our unions, we must build workers’ power.”

The conference covered ILWU history, the union’s Ten Guiding Principles, political action, and other concerns, such as workplace health and safety, port security, international solidarity and social media. Also featured was a theatrical performance from a musical, The Battle of Ballantyne Pier. A wide variety of speakers included international guests, current and former ILWU elected officers, rank-and-file leaders, along with active members and pensioners from many of the union’s divisions.

Leaders past, present and future

Past, present and future leaders: Over 200 delegates and guests attended the fourth ILWU Young Workers Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The first speaker was former First Vice President of ILWU Canada, John Cordecedo, who spoke about the history of the ILWU Longshore locals in British Columbia. ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton followed with a short but inspiring speech that touched on the first of the conference’s three themes: “educate.” He encouraged delegates to learn throughout their careers to keep up with an ever-changing industry.

“This is our future here in this room,” he said, “and our future is ever-evolving. As we go through our lives as workers, we have to educate ourselves. Don’t be stagnant. Don’t expect that today is going to be same as tomorrow. It’s going to change whether we like it or not. Learn about the technology that’s coming. Learn to use it; learn to fight against it. Learn to protect what you have and expand upon it for the future.”

Next up were members of the Young Workers Committee who were elected two-years ago at the previous Conference. Ashley Bordignon, Tyler Gerard, Danielle Phelan, Isaac Baidoo, Viri Gomez and Stef Flores each offered their reflections on the ILWU’s Ten Guiding Principles. Conference participants then held small group discussions where they proposed a “new” guiding principle.

Pensioner experience

A panel of ILWU Canada pensioners provided an important perspective on ILWU history. The group included former ILWU Canada President Tom Dufresne, Herb Howe, Ted Grewcut and Gord Westrand. Each reflected on their most memorable experience of rank-and-file power in the workplace, their thoughts about leadership and automation, and sharing what they miss most about working on the waterfront.

Musical interlude

Following the lunch break, conference attendees were treated to a performance from the Battle of Ballantyne Musical. The musical was written by award-winning playwright Sherry MacDonald and tells the story of the 1935 strike by longshore workers in Vancouver. The remainder of the afternoon featured sessions on Canadian Transport Security Clearances and social media.

Internationalism and activism

Young Workers Committee: The newly elected committee members (L-R): Tyrel Ratich, Local 500; Bryan Delwo, Local 502; Alexander Fernadez, Local 29; Brittni Hodson, Local 508; Tereza Tacic, Local 500; Lateesha Myers, Local 502; Paul
Gill, Local 502.

The second day emphasized international solidarity with a panel of workers from the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA). Delegates watched a short documentary on the Patrick’s dispute that took place in 1998 when the Patrick Corporation fired MUA members in four Australian ports and replaced them with non-union workers. The ILWU responded by refusing to unload cargo from Australian ships loaded by non-union workers. The firing of MUA members was later ruled illegal by Australian courts. The film was followed by a panel of MUA speakers who discussed the current issues and struggles facing Australian maritime workers.

A second panel of featuring International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) delegates included workers from Australia, Indonesia, Poland, Croatia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. ILWU International Secretary- Treasurer Ed Ferris spoke on this panel and reported about efforts by the ITF Dockers’ Section Occupational Safety and Health Working Group.

Afternoon Activism

The conference took time out during the afternoon for some hands-on agitation. Delegates rode by bus to Vancouver’s Jack Poole square where they participated in some street theater by staging a mass “die-in” – part of ILWU’s Canada’s “Kill a Worker, go to Jail” campaign. The effort dramatized on-the job fatalities and serious accidents caused by poor enforcement and weak health and safety laws. Afterward, delegates held a short rally that included a speech from Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris.

“I’m tired of losing family and friends every year for corporate profit,” said Ferris. “You have the right to go home to your family at the end of the day. We need to start valuing our lives a little bit more.”

The rally also heard from Local 502 President Tom Doran: “We have not stopped industrial manslaughter because we haven’t even begun to enforce the law.”

History lesson

During the Friday morning session, Mark Leier, a history professor at Simon Fraser University, explained how movements can build solidarity. His session included small group brainstorming and a sing-along to a song written by the famous Wobblie organizer Joe Hill.

Community activism

ILWU Local 23 young workers Zack Pattin and Brian Skiffington delivered a presentation about their effort to connect the union with community activism. The example they used was a tenant organizing campaign assisted by Local 23 members who helped working-class tenants in Tacoma’s Tiki Apartments resist evictions by greedy landlords. ILWU members helped the tenants organize and provided assistance to displaced tenants. They also worked with tenants and community groups who forced the City Council to delay evictions and pass stronger tenant-protection laws.

Call to Action: ILWU International
President Willie Adams challenged the
delegates to apply what they learned at
the conference when they return to their

Internal organizing

Puget Sound IBU Business Agent Ryan Brazeau and Columbia River IBU Business Agent Adam Smith discussed the recent effort by Inlandboatmen’s Union activists to strengthen their public-sector membership by enlisting employees to recommit their union affiliation in light of the Janus decision. In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that non-union members represented by a union contract are no longer

required to pay representation fees that cover the costs of contract administration and enforcement. Anti-union forces funded the Janus court fight and they continue funding nationwide campaigns aimed to weaken labor unions.

ILWU President Willie Adams

ILWU International President Willie Adams delivered a keynote address on Friday that shared details about his forty-year evolution from a young worker on Tacoma’s waterfront in 1978 to being elected ILWU International President in 2018. Adams challenged workers to encourage greater participation and combat apathy when they return to their local unions. “What are you going to do when you get home?” he asked. “We are going to kill this working-class, labor movement if we don’t have participation from our brothers and sisters,” he concluded.

The afternoon session also featured a training to “build power on-the-job” that was led by Barbara Madeloni and Joe DeManuell-Hall from Labor Notes. A final inspired and heartfelt address was provided by Steve Nasby, former ILWU Canada Second Vice President who helped establish the Young Workers’ Conference.

The final order of business was the election of a new Young Worker’s Committee that now includes Local 500 members Tyrel Ratich and Tereza Tacic, Local 502’s Paul Gill, Lateesha Myers and Bryan Delwo, Local 508’s Brittni Hodson and Local 29’s Alexander Fernadez. Local 5’s Andy Anderson said they left the conference with a sense of urgency and a renewed commitment to activism in their union.

“It’s important to show up and be a part of things,” they said. “There was a challenge issued at the conference for every member to attend at least one union event every year. If you can’t make it to your membership meeting, show up to another event.”

Local 10’s Morall Griffin said he intends to take the challenge issued by President Adams and put it into practice when he returns.

“This experience made me realize there is a lot of work that needs to be done when I get back home. I’m going to share what I learned here with my peers back home,” he said.

Past, present and future leaders: Over 200 delegates and guests attended the fourth ILWU Young Workers Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia. Young Workers Committee: The newly elected committee members (L-R): Tyrel Ratich, Local 500; Bryan Delwo, Local 502; Alexander Fernadez, Local 29; Brittni Hodson, Local 508; Tereza Tacic, Local 500; Lateesha Myers, Local 502; Paul Gill, Local 502. Past, present and future leaders: Over 200 delegates and guests attended the fourth ILWU Young Workers Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia. Call to Action: ILWU International President Willie Adams challenged the delegates to apply what they learned at the conference when they return to their locals.


Categories: Unions

ILWU Statement on the Death of Elijah Cummings

ILWU - Thu, 10/17/2019 - 15:42


With the passing of U.S. Congressional Representative Elijah Cummings, the nation has lost a leader, and the working people of our nation have lost a formidable champion and advocate. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, and their three children; his friends and staff; and the people of the 7th Congressional District of Maryland.

A former Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Cummings made voting rights, equality, and access to opportunity a top priority. He was also committed to ensuring that young people had access to a bright future. As Chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, he led the charge to defend democracy and to hold government officials accountable.

The ILWU had the privilege of working with Rep. Cummings when he was both Chairman and Ranking member of the House Transportation Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee which has jurisdiction over maritime law. He was a tough defender of maritime workers and our collective bargaining rights. He pushed the Coast Guard and the maritime industry to create more opportunities for women and people of color.

Chairman Elijah Cummings was respected by Democrats and Republicans for his toughness, fairness, kind heart and decency. A truly great leader, he once said that his life was “filled with pain, passion and purpose.” We can honor his legacy by acting with purpose and integrity in our efforts to achieve equality, justice and opportunity for the American people.

Download a PDF of the statement here.

Categories: Unions

ILWU solidarity for strike by United Autoworkers

ILWU - Tue, 10/15/2019 - 17:08

ILWU International President Willie Adams took an all-night “red-eye” flight to join striking members of the United Autoworkers Union in Michigan on Monday, October 14. “Solidarity is the most important thing union members can do for each other,” said Adams, who chose to spend his solidarity day in Flint, Michigan.

“Flint is a working-class town with an impressive labor history that continues to this day,” said Adams.

Workers who formed the United Autoworkers made history in 1936 by seizing control of Flint’s General Motors plant after company officials refused to respect the new union.

The “sit-down” strike was one of the country’s most dramatic labor actions that followed the 1934 Minneapolis general strike led by Teamsters and West Coast maritime strike the same year that was led by longshore workers. Adams visited a memorial in Flint honoring the sit-down strikers.  He was accompanied throughout the day by rank-and-file UAW activist Sean Crawford, a Flint native whose family members participated in the sit-down. Adams arrived on day 28 of the strike.  General Motors wants to continue a “two-tier” system with low-paid “perma-temp” workers, higher health costs and close more plants in the U.S.

“When we say ‘an injury to one is an injury to all,’ it means caring for each other, helping union brothers and sisters, and fighting for the entire working class,” said Adams.  “My trip was short, but I made new friends on the picket line, and shared our message of solidarity with these brave workers.”


Categories: Unions

Presidential candidates meet ILWU Executive Board

ILWU - Thu, 10/03/2019 - 14:49

Candidate interviews: The ILWU International Executive Board met with Senators Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren at the meeting on August 23 in San Francisco. Invitations were extended to all of the candidates running for the Democratic nomination. Additional candidates are invited to the December Board meeting.

Three top contenders running for U.S. President met with ILWU International Executive Board members in August. Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris each took several hours from their busy schedules to sit down with the Board, give short presentations and answer questions from union members on August 22 and 23.

Their appearances resulted from an invitation extended by International President Willie Adams, who said he was pleased that three leading candidates made it a priority to attend. “We’re hoping that others will be able to attend our next Executive Board meeting in December, including former Senator Joe Biden,” said Adams.

The visits are part of a new effort to involve more union members in the endorsement process by providing more information about the candidates. Local unions have been encouraged to hold their own meetings for members to discuss the candidates and issues.

Elizabeth Warren goes first

After thanking International President Willie Adams and Board members for the invitation to appear, Warren launched into her fast-paced overview of the problems facing America’s working families.

She explained that her views were shaped by growing-up in a working-class family of six, “…on the ragged edge of the middle class in Oklahoma, where my dad sold fencing and carpeting– then ended-up as a janitor- with my mom working a minimum wage at Sears. Both had no unions to protect them, so we went through some hard times,” she explained.

Working-class family struggles

She recounted that when her father suffered a heart attack, he lost his job and the medical bills almost cost their family to lose their home and station wagon. All three of her older brothers served in the military, including one who spent five years in Vietnam. Another brother got a union job and became a life-long union member.

“At every town hall meeting, I always tell people that unions built America’s middle-class and they will re-build America’s middle class.”

Working-class family: Senator Elizabeth Warren told of her family’s struggle with debt and dead-end jobs in Oklahoma.

Beating the odds to teach

“I wanted to become a teacher, but our family had no money to pay for a college application, let alone four years of tuition, so I got a scholarship but then got married and dropped-out at 19. I later went to a community college that cost $50 a semester where I got my teaching degree and taught children with special needs, which I loved.”

Teaching law, studying business

Her first year of teaching was successful, but brief because her principal made her quit after she became pregnant. Before long, Warren got childcare help from a relative and was able to attend state college and get a law degree. She taught law students and studied how companies made money, used the tax system and passed laws to favor investors and the wealthy.

“Why I’m in this fight”

Supporting union organizing: Senator Warren stood with San Francisco Veterinary care workers at VCA/Mars—a company that has been fighting union members

“I’m running because I’ve seen how our federal government has worked better and better for the wealthy and well-connected – and kicked dirt in the face of everyone else. That’s why I’m in this fight. I’m in it to build a grassroots movement to take on the corruption in Washington and change the structure of our economy to deal with big, international corporations that aren’t loyal to workers or this country, and have too much power,” she said.

More power for workers

Vice President Bobby Olvera, Jr., told Warren that newly-organized workers were in the Board room with her, and that many more wanted to join the union, but faced brutal opposition from employers. Warren responded, “To get more power and structural change in the economy, we need to make it easier to join unions, and we need to give unions more power when they negotiate. I’ve said that in 128 town hall meetings that we’ve held so far, and I’ve personally said it to 50,000 people – plus many more who’ve watched my videos.”

Wealth tax on richest 1/10th of 1%

“I also say that it’s time for a wealth tax on the richest 1/10th of one-percent of people who can afford to pay 2 cents on every dollar that would generate enough money for universal childcare for infants through age 6; enough for universal Pre-K schools for every 3 and 4-year old; enough to raise wages for every childcare and pre-K worker in this country; enough to pay for trade schools, technical schools and public college tuition – and enough left over to cancel student loan debt for about 95% of kids. We could also provide more support for historically Black colleges – and still have $100 billion left to help fight the opioid drug crisis that’s killing thousands of our brothers and sisters out there.”

Wide-ranging support

Warren says her wealth tax is both necessary – and practical – because it has support from people across political lines with Democrats, Independents and Republicans – all backing her wealth tax proposal.

“I’m not somebody who backs down,” she said as she concluded her remarks. “The way I see it, you don’t get what you don’t fight for. And I’m in this fight because I believe we can build a better America if we do.”

Warren answers questions

Asked whether her message appeals to a broad enough audience to win next November, Warren responded that she’s visited 26 states plus Puerto Rico, including many where a majority supported Donald Trump. She cited a recent visit to the town of Kermit, West Virginia – a former Trump stronghold where 80% backed the President. The town’s population of only 302 is notorious because drug companies shipped 9 million opiate pills to one pharmacy there during a 24-month period. Warren said the audience at her Kermit town-hall included some who wore Trump shirts and hats, but many of them came over to her side after hearing how the wealth tax could help their community. She said her campaign is putting down strong roots in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan where she has hired a small army of field organizers and attracted a diverse group of supporters.


Asked about Immigration, Warren recounted her recent visit to the border, where she saw men, women, and children being held in cages – noting one cage was filled with nursing mothers. Warren said she supports an immigration policy that expands legal immigration, provides a path to citizenship for immigrants already in the country, ending private profit-making detention facilities, halting the practice of breaking-up immigrant families in order to inflict pain, and requiring border enforcement personnel to uphold the law, prevent abuse and be more accountable.

Future work and technology

President Adams asked Warren to share her ideas about the future of work in light of new technology and automation.

“I think the future of work is tied to the future of taxation because those taxes will determine where our society will make investments. Right now the system encourages investment in automation instead of people,” she said. “The reason that happens is because the system today is controlled and corrupted by the wealthy and powerful, instead of serving the majority of Americans,” a problem she sees at the root cause of many conflicts in America.

Gridlock in U.S. Senate

Adams also asked Warren how she would deal with Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority leader who has used his power to block legislation in Congress. Warren said one strategy has been to change the balance of power in the Senate by directing resources from her own Senate re-election campaign to support other House and Senate candidates who are willing to stand up for working Americans.

She added that her presidential campaign had rejected expensive media buys in favor of investing in grassroots organizers, believing they can better support worker-friendly candidates “down the ballot.”

Climate change

Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris asked Warren what she would do about climate change. She responded by expressing support for the “Green New Deal,” a plan to transition from fossil fuel to renewable sources, creating a million new jobs and protecting workers impacted during the changeover.

She would also end the practice of giving public land to private oil and gas companies for drilling and mining. She said fighting climate change requires a global strategy, noting “the U.S. is directly responsible for about 20% of the problem, but believes “we have to help the other 80% succeed or we won’t be able to save the planet.”

Warren says the global market for new energy technology has been estimated at $23 billion – so she wants to see more U.S. investment in green research and development, but would require companies that benefit from that R&D to produce their goods in America. She says that policy could generate over 1 million good-paying union jobs.

Health care for all

Warren responded to a question about health care from Coast Benefits Specialist John Castanho, explaining that her Medicare-For-All plan will cover everyone and let them choose and retain their providers – while saving money by ending the insurance industry’s unnecessary duplication, waste, and profit.

Endangered pension plans

Local 26 President and Board member Luisa Gratz asked about protecting pensions. Warren said that she understood the problem because two of her own family members depend on pensions, along with Medicare and Social Security in order to survive. She recounted how the federal government was quick to bail-out Wall Street with $700 billion in loans after they nearly bankrupted the country – and caused millions of Americans to lose homes and savings. At the same time, pension funds were allowed to go insolvent and drastically slash benefits for retirees. “We did it for the banks and we can damn well do it for pensioners,” she said.

Role of religion

Hawaii longshore leader Dustin Dawson asked the candidate to talk about religion and its role in society. Warren said she grew up in the Methodist Church where she was a Sunday School teacher who read stories from the Bible to teach good values to children. She said her favorite Bible passage is Matthew 25:31-46 because it emphasizes the need to care for one another, and then quoted the text: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was ill and you cared for me, I was in prison and you visited me.” She concluded by saying, “I think that means God is in all of us and calls on us to act.” Despite her strong religious background, she says America is a diverse country with many different beliefs and faiths, so she strongly backs the tradition of separating church and state.

Strong appeal: Senator Bernie Sanders explained how his “Medicare for All” plan would help working Americans and union members.

Bernie comes roaring back

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was the next to appear and opened by warmly thanking the ILWU for endorsing him in 2016, when he won 23 states and 43% of delegates, including the key states of Wisconsin and Michigan, before conceding the race and supporting Hillary Clinton.

Young people embrace Bernie

Before beginning his stump speech, Sanders offered a final reminder about his 2016 bid: “We won more votes last time from young people than Hillary and Trump combined.” He added his view that no candidate could win against Trump without an energetic campaign that motivates young people and working-class voters.

Hard-hitting style

Sanders delivered his strong, pro-union message with the same direct and hard-hitting style that inspired union members, young people, and working families four years ago. Some highlights of this year’s talk included the following:

“You’re looking at the only candidate who believes there’s something wrong when three people in America own more wealth than the bottom half of America,” he said.

One person can’t do it alone

“Our campaign has the most progressive agenda platform – but if you want real change, you’re gonna’ have to take on Wall Street and three financial institutions with assets over 10 trillion dollars. That’s real power. You want health care reform in this country? You’re gonna’ have to take on the insurance companies. You want to lower the cost of prescription drugs? Then you have to take on the pharmaceutical industry. Last year the health care industry made over $100 billion dollars in profit – while 87 million Americans were uninsured or underinsured; 30,000 people died from lack of care, and 500,000 people went bankrupt last year from medical bills. The health care industry will spend hundreds of millions of dollars to keep their system.

The most important point I want to make is that no president can do it alone. You can’t transform this country with one person and one election. It takes a people’s movement, and that’s what I promise to do.”

His second point was equally direct: “I’m the strongest candidate to defeat the most dangerous President in the history of the United States.”

Millions have been ignored

He followed with a point that few candidates have dared to ask: “how the hell did Trump get elected in the first place?” he said, quickly answering his own question. “There were millions and millions of working-class people who felt that the Democratic Party was not listening to their pain. Today, in a relatively strong economy, half of our people are living paycheck to paycheck.

That means you get sick, you can’t afford to see a doctor. If your car breaks down and needs $500 to fix it, then you can’t get to work and you lose your job. After 45 years, how much better is the average worker doing? The answer is zero. The top 1% has seen a 21 trillion-dollar increase in their wealth – while the bottom half of Americans have seen a $900 million-dollar decrease. We have massive wealth and income inequality and a corrupt political system with billionaires buying elections.”

Solutions that will help

“So what are we going do we do about these problems?” he continued. “We have to start with the basics. If you work 40 hours a week in America, you should not be living in poverty. We need to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. We have to end the absurdity of women and minorities making less for doing the same work that pays others more. Seven states now do that. Our trade schools, public colleges and apprenticeship programs should be free. Health care is a human right, not a privilege, and we should expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing aids and eyeglasses – then expand Medicare to cover everyone. We have to address climate change because it’s real and we just announced a plan to solve it. We can’t keep building more jails and putting 20% of people in jail just because they can’t afford to pay bail.”

Support for unions

“The middle class doesn’t grow in this country unless the trade union movement grows in this country,”

said Sanders, adding that he recently unveiled a new plan to double the number of union members in America and pledged to be “the strongest pro-union President since Franklin Roosevelt, and maybe stronger.” His plan would allow workers to join a union when a majority sign cards, without delays and interference from anti-union consultants.

It would also require employers to negotiate first contracts or face severe penalties, and he would outlaw “right-to-work-for less” laws.

Anchor Steam support: Senator Sanders stopped to show his solidarity for ILWU Local 6 members who are bargaining their first contract at Anchor Brewery in San Francisco.

More caring & humane society

“This campaign is about ‘us’ not ‘me.’ I believe from the bottom of my heart that we are in this together, to build a decent society where we care about each other, that we don’t step over people living in the street, that we don’t ignore the fact that life-expectancy in now declining in America.”

It will take a movement

“To transform this country will require an unprecedented grassroots movement to change the power structure– and the trade union movement needs to be at the center of that movement.

The goal is to transform this country by bringing working people into the political process and run the government so it benefits workers and not just the billionaire class. If we organize and bring people together, we can transform this country and lead the world in creating a dignified, civilized democratic country.”

Bernie answers questions

Questions followed many of the same topics that Warren addressed, beginning with pensions, Social Security and Medicare. Sanders said he had authored strong legislation to protect workers in underfunded pension plans, and wants to raise the cap on Social Security contributions so those earning of $250k will start paying the same rates as someone earning $50k a year – a change that would raise enough revenue to protect the system for the next 50 years.

Subsidies for automation?

Board member Dan McKisson asked if Sanders would oppose the National Defense Authorization Act which contains a provision to fund automation on the docks with public dollars. Sanders quickly replied, “yes, I’ll oppose that.”

President Willie Adams asked Sanders for more thoughts about the future of work and automation – noting that the issue hasn’t been addressed by most candidates. Sanders replied, “You’re absolutely right, this is a discussion that hasn’t taken place – it’s an explosion waiting to happen.” He then posed a series of questions. “Is it acceptable to come in and say ‘hey, we’ve got technology and we’re going to put half the people out on the street?’ No its not. Is it a bad idea if we use technology to replace a dirty, hard job and we’re going to cut your hours in half, and you are going to benefit from that technology? That’s not a bad idea. So the bottom line is that we can’t be anti-technology if it benefits workers – but we can be anti-technology if it throws workers out on the street. I am opposed to companies coming in and throwing workers out on the street with new technology.

That is absolutely unacceptable. On the other hand, if I can cut ten hours from your workweek, and you’re doing better, I don’t think that’s unacceptable. We have to make technology work for workers, not just the people who own the company.

Overcoming divisiveness

Vice President Bobby Olvera Jr., asked Sanders what could be done to heal the many divisions and divisiveness that have become the norm in American politics. Sanders replied, “let’s be clear, there’s always been racism in America. There’s always been sexism in America. There’s always been anti-immigrant feelings. Trump didn’t invent those things, but his political strategy is to get me to hate you, and you to hate her, etc. We need a President whose words and actions can unify the country. Because we’re all in it together. This is a nation of immigrants, and unless you’re Native American,

we all came from somewhere – some came freely, some came in chains– but we all came from somewhere else.

The other way to unify the country is to support programs that are popular, like raising the minimum wage, providing free education, making the rich pay their share of taxes and providing everyone in America with health care.

Invading our privacy

Board member Dane Jones asked about employers who are increasingly compromising the privacy of workers’on the job, to which Sanders replied that he agreed with the point and noted that the privacy of all citizens is threatened by companies that collect vast amount of data from individuals, and are totally unaccountable.

High cost of drugs

ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton jokingly confessed that he had “a man-crush on Bernie,” which caused the room to erupt in laughter, and made Bernie blush bright red. Ashton went on to ask about the high cost of drugs and health care in America. Sanders shared details of a recent visit he made to Canada, accompanied by a group of diabetics, who discovered that insulin in Canada costs 90% less than in the U.S. Bernie asked Ashton to reveal how much Canadians pay for a hospital surgery – and the answer was “zero.” And how much do they pay each month for their health coverage? “$47 a month,” said Ashton.

What about the border crisis?

Board member David Gonzalez asked Sanders for his views about the border crisis. The Senator blamed much of the “crisis” on President Trump’s “racist and xenophobe” behavior who denigrated immigrants

and promoted inhumane treatment of refugees. He then outlined his own immigration plan which was nearly identical to Warren’s, with a path for citizenship, comprehensive reform, an end to separating immigrant family members and more.

Apprenticeships and good jobs

Board member Dax Koho of Local 22 in Tacoma asked what could be done to improve apprenticeship programs and create more good jobs. Sanders answered by referring to President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1941 “Four Freedoms” speech, delivered on the eve of World War II that argued every American deserved to be free from economic insecurity. Sanders went on to explain that his own campaign is embracing Medicare for All, childcare, tuition-free public colleges and universities, senior care and a strategy to address climate change – all designed to meet basic human needs while also providing good jobs.

Fossil fuel transition

Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris asked Sanders about his plan to help America shift from dependence on fossil fuels and the oil industry. The Senator said the first task is to recognize that scientists are clear that global warming presents an urgent danger to the planet– even if the President believes scientists

are wrong and that climate change is a hoax. Sanders said he just introduced “the most comprehensive climate change legislation in history” and that investments in alternatives would generate millions of new jobs.

Koch Brothers and Jones Act

Board member John Fageaux asked Sanders whether the Koch Brothers are a threat to America. “It’s not just them,” said Sanders, noting that America’s billionaires have been taking trillions for

themselves while the majority of Americans are losing ground and seeing cuts to Medicare and Social Security. IBU President Marina Secchitano asked Sanders about his stand on the Jones Act, which provides good union jobs for the workers in the maritime industry. Sanders replied with an enthusiastic, “yes!”

Concluding remarks

The Senator concluded with words of wisdom from Nelson Mandela, who said, “everything always seems impossible until it is done.” Sanders said it is important to recognize that “the system wants you to believe that anything you or I support can’t be done. The system wants us to think tiny and little, but think about history. Slavery was ‘natural’ until enough people stood up and said it was barbaric. One hundred years ago, women did not have the right to vote. Gay people have always been told they had no right to love who they want.

Workers were told that they couldn’t come together to collectively bargain for better conditions. Everything is wrong and crazy until people stand up and fight for it. Thirty years from now,

people will say they can’t believe that 30,000 people used to die every year because they had no health care. The idea of a $15 minimum wage was considered a radical idea four years ago and now it’s the law in seven states. Making marijuana legal was once thought to be impossible. Tuition-free public colleges and universities was recently considered a radical idea, but not anymore.

This is what change is about. We have to change consciousness in America to make people think that the ideas of decency and dignity are what this country is supposed to be about – not giving tax breaks to billionaires and living in an oligarchic society. We are the wealthiest country in the history of the world, and we can do these things.”

Kamala Harris

Speaking out: Senator Kamala Harris said her record of confronting corporate power and working with unions are key to her campaign for president

The California Senator said she was honored to be with ILWU members, recalling her first run for District Attorney in San Francisco was supported by longtime ILWU leaders Leroy King and Fred Pecker. She said she remains eternally grateful to both men who have passed-on. She added, “every election I have fought and won has been with labor and the ILWU. We’ve stood together in many battles

for workers’ rights, collective bargaining and the dignity of labor. I give all

thanks and praise for the work you do every day to secure decent working conditions and address the new challenges involving automation. I’m here today to listen as much as I am to talk, but I would be honored to have your support and look forward to hearing your comments.” She concluded her

opening remarks with what she calls “my 3 am agenda.”

Concerns that worry us at night

“My campaign is based on the kind of issues that wake people up in the middle of the night. The vast majority of Americans are worried about many of the same issues that aren’t being

addressed. They worry about healthcare for themselves and their family members; they worry about getting and keeping a good job; they worry about being able to retire with dignity and whether they can afford expensive prescription drugs. Students worry about paying-off their student loans. These are the things that keep people up in the middle of the night and these are my priorities in this election.

Questions begin with drug prices

Board member and Local 13 President Melvin Mackay asked Harris if she had a plan to lower prescription drug prices. She began with a general response, emphasizing her accomplishments as California Attorney General, when she confronted powerful corporations.

“I took-on the five biggest banks in the United States after they caused people to lose their homes. I rejected their offer to settle for ‘crumbs-on-the-table’ and got a settlement almost ten times more than what they offered.” She said her lawsuit against drug companies for making misleading claims resulted in a $200 million settlement. “I’m probably one of the only people on the debate stage with who can talk about the fights I’ve actually been in…I’ve actually taken-on some of the most powerful interests in the United States. I’ve won and have the track record to prove it.”

Her health plan proposal would allow private insurance companies to continue operating – but only “if they compete under our rules,” she said, “without charging co-pays or deductibles.”

Help for unions

Board member and Local 63-Office Clerical Unit President John Fageaux asked what Harris would do to stem the decline of unions. She began by acknowledging that “labor is under attack and workers are losing ground,” then provided some specifics. “The Secretary of Labor should be someone who supports workers,” she said, referring to President Trump’s recent appointment of Eugene Scalia who is anti-union. She also expressed her opposition to “right-to-work-for less” laws that have been enacted in 27 states. On a personal note, she added, “I’ve walked on picket lines with the ILWU and other union members.”

Border crisis and Trump’s wall

Board member and Local 34 member David Gonzalez asked Harris about the border crisis and Trump’s wall. She said the President helped create the problem by agitating voters against immigrants and by promoting his border wall. She said that when Trump began, there was “net-zero” immigration

into the U.S. – meaning as many people were leaving as arriving to the U.S. “Now Trump is putting babies in cages and separating children from their parents at the border,” practices that Harris said are human rights abuses. Harris then described her visit to a private detention facility in Florida where 2700 children were being held – noting that President Trump has cut aid to poor countries in Central America that need help to address poverty, injustice and violence in order to reduce immigration to the U.S.


Board member Dustin Dawson from Local 142 Longshore asked Harris what could be done about homelessness. She cited the nationwide housing shortage in 99% of U.S. counties where

minimum wage workers cannot afford the rent. The Great Recession in 2008 triggered a foreclosure crisis that added to the problem. The lack of affordable health care and mental health services are also factors that would be addressed with her Medicare for All plan.

Private prison industry

Board member and Local 26 President Luisa Gratz asked whether Harris could do anything about the growth of private prisons and detention centers. The Senator responded quickly, saying, “we need to shut them down.”

LGBT rights

ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton asked about abuses of LGBT immigrants and citizens when they are arrested or detained. Harris said she understood the problems and would not tolerate any abusive behavior.

Subsidies for port automation

Board member Dan McKisson from Local 19 asked Harris if she would support banning federal tax dollars from being used to subsidize the automation of ports. She expressed support for a study on the issue and said analysis should be done by neutral parties.

Criminal justice & prison reform

Vice President Bobby Olvera, Jr. asked what could be done about prison inmates who receive indeterminate sentences, are subject to lengthy solitary confinement, and are held beyond their release dates. Harris said she is supporting several bills that address all three problems and would support even stronger legislation. She told of her visit to California’s super-maximum security prison in Pelican Bay, and meetings with inmates who served long terms in solitary confinement, a practice she described as, “absolutely inhumane.”

College & trade schools

Board member and Local 22 President Dax Koho asked Harris about the challenges facing young people who attend college, graduate in debt and have trouble finding good jobs. Harris said she is concerned about the privatization of student loan programs that occurred since she went to college. She said the current system allows predatory lenders to take advantage of students.

She believes trade schools and apprenticeship programs should be expanded.

Teaching careers could offer good jobs to millions of graduates if pay was raised an average of $13,500 across the nation, which she strongly supports.

Protecting the Jones Act

IBU President and Board member Marina Secchitano asked about the Jones Act. Harris said she supports the law that protects good jobs.

Climate Change

Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris asked Harris about her position on Climate Change. “It’s a crisis, and on day-one, I would get us back in the Paris Agreement. I have a Green New Deal plan that will make us carbon-neutral by 2030. A lot of jobs will be created in the process of providing clean air and clean water.”

The future of work and automation

President Willie Adams asked why more candidates aren’t talking about automation and the future of work– and he asked Harris for her views. She replied that the issue requires “a leader who will bring everyone together for an honest conversation about the consequences of automation, including jobs, productivity and who will benefit and who will lose. I admire innovation but don’t think it should cost whole populations of people to lose employment. There’s a lot of information, and a lot of misinformation about the benefits – whether its job creation or the destruction of jobs, so these have to be honest conversations and they require an honest broker, and I intend to be that honest broker.”

Categories: Unions

40th Annual Wilmington Labor Day Parade attracts thousands

ILWU - Tue, 10/01/2019 - 14:21

Second place trophy: ILWU Local 13 President Ray Familathe (left) with
ILWU pensioner Jerry Brady who accepted the second-place trophy for “Best Float”
in the parade.

Several thousand union members, families community supporters came out to celebrate the ruby anniversary of the Harbor Labor Coalition’s annual Labor Day Parade and Picnic. The event was the brain-child of ILWU Local 26 President Luisa Gratz. The Harbor Labor Coalition was formed by Gratz along with then newly elected Local 13 Executive Board member Dave Arian, David O’Day, Regional Coordinator for the Inlandboatmen’s Union and Diane Middleton. Their goal was to fight the Crowley Maritime from bringing a substandard contract from their tugboat operation in Florida to the Ports of LA and Long Beach.

In 1979 the Harbor Labor Coalition started the Labor Day Parade and Picnic as a demonstration of solidarity and labor unity. What started as a small parade and picnic with a few hundred union members 40 years ago, has grown to become the largest Labor Day event west of the Mississippi River.

The day began at 7:30 am with an egg, sausage, and pancake breakfast at the Longshoremen’s Memorial Hall sponsored by the Southern California Pensioners Club. The meal fed an estimated 1,500 people. During the breakfast, federal, state and local elected officials were given an opportunity to speak to the crowd before heading over the assembly point for the Labor Day Parade on Broad and E Streets.

The parade was kicked-off by a short press conference the included ILWU Local 13 President Ray Familathe, PCPA Pensioner President Greg Mitre, Congresswoman Nanette Barragán, Congressman Alan Lowenthal, Congressman Gil Cisneros and LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis. Familathe addressed the issue of automation and technology that is affecting workers in virtually every sector of the economy, including longshore, maritime, and warehousing.

Recognizing Luisa Gratz:
ILWU Local 26 President Luisa Gratz, one of the co-founders the Wilmington Labor Day March and Picnic, spoke at the rally against automation, the need for solidarity and the importance of organizing. Gratz was thanked at the event for originating the idea of the march 40 years ago.

“We are here to send a message that workers are not going to be forgotten. We need to be included as we move forward,” Familathe said. “We need a just transition with new technology and automation. Robots don’t pay taxes and don’t shop in the local community.”

The parade was led by the ILWU Southern California Pensioners who followed behind the Color Guard. The pensioners rode on a flatbed truck and tossed candy to hundreds of children and families who lined Avalon Blvd to watch the parade. Thousands of union members marched with motorcycle clubs, marching bands, classic cars, and low-riders. The march ended in Wilmington’s Banning Park where firefighters cooked over 5,000 hot dogs. Sno-cones, cold sodas and popsicles awaited the marchers as they streamed into the park. Live music was provided by the Brian Young Blues Station and The Topics. A special section of the park was set aside for kids with games, face painting, and other activities.

The absence of former ILWU International President Dave Arian was felt throughout the parade and picnic. The 2014 Los Angeles Poet Laureate Luis Rodriguez recited a poem he wrote honoring Dave, who passed away earlier this year. The poem, Show Up, captured the spirit and passion embodied by Dave’s life-long commitment to fighting for social and economic justice.

Ray Familathe and Luisa Gratz were among the speakers at the picnic. Local 13 pensioner and PCPA Poet Laureate, Jerry Brady, recited one of his poems. Gratz spoke about the threat of automation and other attacks on labor. She urged everyone in attendance to take the energy present at the event and channel it into an on-going organizing effort.

“We cannot just get together one day a year. Let this be a beginning. Think about what you are going to do tomorrow make unions stronger and keep up the spirit of solidarity that we have here today,” Gratz said.

  • Second place trophy: ILWU Local 13 President Ray Familathe (left) with ILWU pensioner Jerry Brady who accepted the second-place trophy for “Best Float” in the parade.
  • Recognizing Luisa Gratz: ILWU Local 26 President Luisa Gratz, one of the co-founders the Wilmington Labor Day March and Picnic, spoke at the rally against automation, the need for solidarity and the importance of organizing. Gratz was thanked at the event for originating the idea of the march 40 years ago.
Categories: Unions

ILWU Canada honors the 84th anniversary of the Battle of Ballantyne Pier

ILWU - Fri, 08/16/2019 - 09:20

Three generations honor Ballantyne struggle: from left to right, Skip Anderson (Local 514), Ricky Anderson (Local 500), Brock Anderson (Local 502),
and Brian Anderson (Local 514).

On June 18th, over 40 ILWU members, pensioners, and supporters gathered at the Ballantyne memorial at New Brighton Park in Vancouver, BC to commemorate the 84th anniversary of the Battle of Ballantyne Pier and remember the militant history of Vancouver waterfront workers. Recognizing the First Nations Joulene Parent from Local 500 opened the event by acknowledging that the event was held on the unceded land of the Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. “We make this recognition at all of our labor events because it is not just history, it is also about moving forward,” Parent said.

Kill a Worker, Go to Jail

ILWU Canada’s Second Vice President, Dan Kask served as the master of ceremonies. He drew attention to the recent 61st anniversary of the collapse of the Iron Workers Memorial Bridge which could be seen just across the river. Nineteen workers died during the accident. Kask then pointed out the banner behind the podium featuring ILWU Canada’s Kill a Worker, Go to Jail campaign. “The purpose of the campaign is to bring awareness to the short-comings of Industrial manslaughter laws in Canada and the lack of enforcement of those laws,’ Kask said. The crowd observed a moment of silence for the workers killed in the bridge collapse and for two ILWU members, Everett Cummings and Don Jantz who were killed on the waterfront in the past year.
“Today means a lot for our union,” said ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton. “It means we are alive and can continue to fight on. Those four letters, ILWU, have given generations of our people something to live for. And as we know in the past, it has been the reason why some people have died—not because they wanted to, but because they stood up for the ILWU. When we stand up for this great union, it means we stand up for the rest of the labor movement. We know what happens when you let your guard down if you relax from the fight—governments, police, and corporations will try and steamroll you even harder and faster. The only way we defend ourselves is with our strength and our solidarity.”

The Battle of Ballantyne Pier

Dave Lomas, Pensioner from ILWU Local 500, who has extensively researched the history of the battle, gave a detailed story of the Battle of Ballantyne. Ballantyne Pier was the site of a pitched battle between 1,000 locked out dockworkers and police in Vancouver, British Columbia, on June 18th, 1935. The Battle of Ballantyne was a part of the long history of militant trade unionism by Canadian longshore workers and ultimately laid the foundation for the formation of ILWU Canada. After a decade of successful organizing and strikes by the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), the employers broke the back of the ILA during a 1923 strike and replaced it with a company union, the Vancouver and District Waterfront Workers’ Association (VDWWA). Workers eventually overcame this tactic by electing their leaders and forcing the union to address their interests and not the employers. In 1935 The Shipping Federation provoked another major strike in the spring of 1935 and locked-out workers at the port at Powell River.
The conflict spread to other dockers in the region. Vancouver longshore workers were also locked-out after they refused to unload ships coming from Powell River. Seattle longshore workers, in an act of solidarity, refused to unload ships coming from Vancouver and Powell River that were loaded by non-union workers. On June 18th, approximately 1,000 longshore workers and supporters marched through Vancouver towards Ballantyne Pier where non-union workers were unloading ships. The workers were blocked at the pier by hundreds of armed police officers. The dockers came under attack from the police and Mounties. Workers were beaten with clubs as they tried to run to safety, while many others tried fighting back, using makeshift weapons. Police attacked the union hall with tear gas where the women’s Auxiliary had set a first aid station. Several people were hospitalized during the three-hour battle, including a worker who had been shot in the back of his legs. The battle was a tactical defeat for the longshore workers, but they continued the struggle to form a union independent of the Shipping Federation, and in 1937 ILWU Canada was born.

Enduring lessons

The 2019 line-up featured several speakers who highlighted the enduring lessons of the Battle of Ballantyne Pier and the dockworkers struggle of that era. “It’s a bloody reminder that the rights we enjoy today are the result of tangible sacrifices made by working people,” said President Laird Cronk of the Vancouver Federation of Labor. “The themes of bad faith bargaining, union-busting, and employer intimidation—these are not just challenges of the past.” “Battle of Ballantyne speaks to the struggle that we go through every day, every time we bargain a collective agreement—in 1935 we saw what a conspiracy between the employer and government coming together to undermine workers looks like,” said Graeme Johnston President of the BC Ferry & Marine Workers Union. “We workers continue to fight in the streets, in the board rooms, in their union halls, to build power and fight back against the employer and to get the rights that they deserve.”

History lesson

President Stephen von Sychowski of the Vancouver & District Labour Council reminded the crowd that future victories are sometimes built on the lessons learned in defeats.
“Change could be delayed, but it couldn’t be stopped because longshore workers continued to fight and ultimately the demands of 1935 were achieved, and the ILWU grew to become one of the largest and strongest unions in our Province,” von Sychowski said. This theme is echoed in the musical, The Battle of Ballantyne Pier, according to director Sherry MacDonald. “Lecture speaks to the mind, but drama speaks to the heart. In The Battle of Ballantyne Pier, you will see every day, average characters fall and get back up again and eventually become stronger for it and this is the story of unionism on the waterfront,” she said. Local 400 member and member of the Young Workers Committee, Kyle Knapton said the key lesson of 1935 was rank-and-file participation in our unions. “What can we take away from this? The only chance we have against the attempts to undermine our rights as workers is to actively participate in our unions,” Knapton said. “The youth need to step forward and get involved at meetings, in committees attend events and continue to fight for our rights that our predecessors gave their lives for.”

Categories: Unions

Long game strategy yields big gain for Bellingham port workers

ILWU - Fri, 08/16/2019 - 09:11

Negotiating committee: (From left to right) Tony Flaherty, Bryson
Tripp and Nick Erb.

ILWU Local 7 Clerical workers at the Port of Bellingham have ratified a three-year contract that covers receptionists, clerks, accountants, secretaries, and operation specialists who work at Bellingham’s seaside port facilities and nearby airport until 2022. The Negotiating Committee was composed of veterans Bryson Tripp and Tony Flaherty – along with recently drafted member and natural horse-trader Nick Erb. Four years ago, Flaherty and Tripp represented the same group of workers and helped secure their last contract negotiated under very different circumstances.

The economy then was still under major duress and some port commissioners were indifferent and recalcitrant. So the bargaining team played the long game by developing a working relationship with the Bellingham community. Enter ILWU Lead Organizer, Jon Brier, who held several trainings and coaching sessions that helped the group discover their power away from the bargaining table. By organizing and uniting the group, Brier helped them identify their natural allies in the community, such as other labor organizations like Jobs with Justice, and in turn, amplify their power at the table with several very public displays of solidarity. With this larger base in the community and with generous help from ILWU retirees like John Munson, the whole bargaining unit soon realized they could punch well above their weight.

The results were better than expected, but still far from what was needed to keep up with Bellingham’s rising cost of living. Since that last round, however, Flaherty, Tripp, and other Port workers kept organizing, building new relationships, and participating in local solidarity efforts. They also researched the Port’s financial situation and gathered data on comparable jobs at other ports in their region. The organizing, solidarity and research paid off big-time in recent bargaining when they negotiated, and members ratified, an agreement to boost wages 18% over four years. Nearly half of the big increase is being delivered in the first year of the contract. Well done Local 7 – way to organize, unite, and fight to win the long game!

Submitted by IBU Puget Sound Regional Director Peter Hart and IBU Puget Sound Passenger Business Agent Ryan Brazeau

Categories: Unions

IBU Members Win Strike at Alaska Marine Highway System

ILWU - Thu, 08/15/2019 - 11:45

Taking action: IBU members picketed the MV COLUMBIA in Ketchikan in late July. IBU workers on the Columbia, Flagship of the Alaska Marine Highway System fleet, were the first to strike this month – and the first to strike 42 years ago when the IBU was forced out in 1977.

By late 2018, the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific had been bargaining for 2 years to secure a contract for 400 workers at the Alaska Marine Highway System. The IBU represents the largest group of employees among several unions that represent public ferry system workers.

On February 19, 2019, the newly elected Governor released his proposed budget that called for cutting the ferry system by more than 1/3, along with slashing other public services in Alaska, including education, senior housing, and community medical aid. As the budget cuts were announced, a group of businesses continued talking about privatizing the public ferry system – talk that continues to this day.

In the last negotiations before the new governor took office, the State gave the IBU a “supposal” for a three-year contract which included 31 tentative agreements – contract changes approved and signed by both parties, along with wage increases of 3%, 1%, 1%, and raising workers’ share of health insurance premiums to 15%.

The State’s offer also included no adjustment to raise wages for crewmembers of the MV Lituya to help them reach parity with workers on other vessels. It also left intact a cost of living differential (COLD) that paid non-resident union members about $4 dollars less per hour than Alaskan residents – although the State agreed in principle to eliminate the COLD differential and boost the MV Lituya wages, but had not yet signed-off on those items. Members were adamantly opposed to approving a contract with higher health premiums. This made it impossible for the union to seek membership approval of the “supposal” package. The State responded by shutting down negotiations hours before the election of Governor Mike Dunleavy.

Background on health insurance

The State offers workers a choice of a standard plan or economy health insurance plans. Those who couldn’t afford the standard plan, which costs members over $350 per month, would choose the economy plan with high deductibles and more out-of-pocket costs, but no premium cost-sharing. When the state demanded IBU members to start paying 15% of the premiums for both plans, members were determined to fight indefinitely. They had also not received a wage increase for 3 years, so this proposal would have set workers back even further.

State offers a 1-year roll-over

When the IBU returned to bargaining under the new governor, the State offered a one year “rollover” of the contract, meaning no changes to the terms and conditions, no wage increases or health increases. We were agreeable to this idea – until they informed us that all 31 of the tentative agreements were now rescinded and off the table. They said we’d have to re-negotiate each of those in the next contract negotiations, a year out. They also made it very clear that there was no guarantee they would agree to the previously negotiated tentative agreements.

This was unacceptable, so we chose to continue bargaining our contract. We felt the State was only surface bargaining – talking with no real intention of reaching an agreement, so we demanded that they provide us with a written proposal by May 15, 2019. They responded with a written proposal that included a one-time lump sum payment of $1000 on January 1, 2021, to offset their proposal requiring members with the economy plan to begin paying part of their health premiums on January 1, 2021. The premium increases amounted to a $60 monthly increase for singles and $160 for a family, so the one-time lump sum would have a short-lived impact, covering only 6 months of higher costs for a family, along with the prospect of more increases in the future. The State “supposal” did include our proposal to increase the wages of crewmembers on the MV Lituya.

Union members vote

Our Negotiations Committee told the State that we could not recommend their proposal but would ask members to vote on it. I rode the MV Columbia as it traveled from Ketchikan to Juneau, to vote the members onboard. Patrolwoman Krissel Calibo flew to Kenai, then rented a car and drove to Whittier where she met the MV Aurora, then went to Homer where she met members working on the MV Tustumena so they could vote. All ballots were then brought to Juneau. Voting for crews on vessels arriving in Juneau were handled by Alaska Regional Director Trina Arnold and myself, who met crewmembers from the MV Tazlina, MV LeConte and MV Kennicott. We joined Executive Committee Vice-Chair Robb Arnold to vote the members of the MV Malaspina. We also offered an online ballot for the members who couldn’t get a paper ballot, including crewmembers of the MV Matanuska. On June 19, 2019, the votes were tallied, with members overwhelmingly rejecting the State’s proposal and authorizing the Negotiations Committee to call a strike.

Union goes into mediation

John Fageaux, President of ILWU Local 63-Office Clerical Unit (OCU), joined our negotiations team to lend assistance. We contacted the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service, requested their help and went into mediation on July 15 and 17. During that process, the State agreed to increase the lump sum to $1500 and offered to include 3 of our 31 tentative agreements, but with no wage increases. After several rounds, the Union gave the State a “last, best and final” proposal – informing them we would strike if they did not respond. We waited until 4:00pm on July 17th and received nothing from the State. We left the meeting to vote our members on this new proposal and prepare for a strike.

Strike after talks broke down

Building public support: Sue Weller (right) is a member of the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU) who works on the Alaska Marine Highways System that connects small communities throughout the nation’s largest state. Weller took time-off from her job to sign-up 73 supporters in Wasilla on June 25. The following day she continued the same outreach effort in Anchorage and Palmer. The state’s public ferry system is being attacked on two fronts; devastating budget cuts led by the Governor and a privatization campaign led by corporate and anti-union interests. IBU’s Alaska Region has coordinated campaign efforts to defend the public ferries, using the slogan: “Save Our System” – S.O.S.

When members voted on the State’s final offer, 86% voted to strike. On July 24, 2019, after the MV Columbia arrived in Ketchikan and passengers were offloaded, IBU Patrolwoman Krissel Calibo boarded the ship, and the crew walked-off with pride –marking the beginning of our strike at 2:00 pm. Then the MV Tazlina crew finished offloading in Juneau at 4:30 pm and Executive Board Chair Earling Walli boarded the ship and walked-off with the crew. Regional Director Trina Arnold and Earling then boarded the MV LeConte at 8:30 pm and did the same. Arnold met the MV Malaspina at 3:00 am in Juneau where the crew finished offloading then walked-off the vessel. The MV Matanuska was in the shipyard in Portland. Port Captain Staples from Ketchikan Central Office (KCO) sent word to the Captains to have each IBU member “sign or get off the boat or we are calling reinforcements.”

When the crew refused to sign, they were ordered to vacate the ship and walked-off at 2:00 pm on July 25. Columbia River Regional Director Brian Dodge met with the crew on the next day and helped them organize a picket line outside the Portland shipyard. The MV Kennicott arrived in Ketchikan on July 25 at 3:00 pm and Krissel tried to board the vessel, but State Troopers, requested by the Central Office, wouldn’t let her on the ramp.

The MV Kennicott crew had received an intimidating notice from Captain John Falvey, General Manager of the Ketchikan Central Office, the same notice that was given on the MV Matanuska, asserting that IBU members had to declare whether they were striking or working. He said those who elect to strike would not be paid and ordered the Captains to hand each member the notice. Krissel was finally able to meet the crew outside the tube, near the guard shack at the Vigor Shipyard, and the majority walked-off. The MV Aurora arrived in Valdez on July 24.

We had a phone meeting with the crew and they reported that management offered to leave them on the vessel with pay, but the following day they received the same “strike or work” demand letter, and members walked off the ship as directed by the union. The MV Tustumena arrived in Kodiak on July 24 and received the same demand letter.

On July 25, crew members walked off the ship as directed by the union. Unfortunately, it must be noted that a few crew members did not follow the union’s order to leave the ships. This internal matter will be taken up by the Alaska Region. On July 30, the State sent a letter to members notifying them that their healthcare coverage would end on July 31, if they remained on strike. In addition, the non-union, substandard Inter-Island Ferry Authority (IFA) was pushing to get the MV Lituya moved off the terminal so IFA could run their ferry from Metlakatla to Ketchikan, replacing our service. Southern California Patrolman Mike Vera called upon his friends and family in Metlakatla who joined our members to stand guard on the picket line. There was a tremendous amount of pressure from the employer on members. I am proud to say that IBU members didn’t waiver in their commitment. They were prepared to fight until we got a settlement. And they did so with pride and honor Regional Director Trina Arnold was similarly impressed with the solidarity she saw during the strike.

“It was amazing to watch some of the passengers of the MV Malaspina get off the ship and join our picket line in Juneau at 3:00 am. In fact, the public support continued to grow each day. The cars would honk and wave as they drove by. A taxicab owner lent us one of his cabs to get to and from town. It turns out he was a former member of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association (MEBA) who used to work with us at the Marine Highway System. People were dropping food off for our picketers up until the end of the strike. Members offered one of the passengers a room in their home because she didn’t have anywhere else to stay. I realize this was hard on our members, but I know we will all treasure the memories we have of the solidarity on our picket lines. We’ll be telling these stories to each other for years to come.”

Solidarity rallies were held on July 29, in Bellingham, Washington, organized by Terri Mast, IBU Secretary Trea surer, and at picket lines in Juneau, Ketchikan, Valdez and July 28 in Kodiak. Solidarity messages were received from Tlingit and Haida First Nations, the Master, Mates & Pilots, Marine Engineers Beneficial Assn., American Radio Assn., Maritime Labor Alliance, International Longshore Association, Sailors’ Union Pacific, Utility Workers Union of America, BC Ferry and Marine Workers Union, Maritime Union of Australia, ILWU International, ILWU Alaska Longshore Division, ILWU Local 200 Alaska, ILWU-PCPA Pensioners, ILWU Local 13, ILWU Local 63 OCU, IBU SF Region, Puget Sound Region, Hawaii Region, Columbia River Region, Southern California Region, Region 37, IBU Longshore, Nakliyat-ls – Trade Union of Revolutionary Workers of Land Airway and Railway workers of Turkey, Transportation Trades Department, Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Kamala Harris. Sara Nelson, International President of Association of Flight Attendants- CWA, AFL-CIO, sent us a message:

“The last Alaska ferry strike was in 1977, but right now workers are standing together and stopping service until they get an agreement after years of negotiations. We stand with IBU and MEBAUNION @ MMPUnion who are honoring the strike in solidarity.”

Resolution and return to work

Beth Schindler, Director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, stepped-in as we resumed mediation on July 27 and 28. We made some real progress, but then things stalled and she decided we needed a break. The outstanding issues were the wage increases, health premium sharing for the economy plan, and the remaining tentative agreements – which included many protections for members, plus the COLD differential for non-resident Union members.

By July 30, the political environment was heating-up. Coastal legislators worried that pressure was mounting to get the ferries running. The union returned to mediation July 30, joined by ILWU Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris. The State brought in an attorney, Jim Baird, from Chicago, who management had used in the past to get a settlement. We went around the clock trading proposals until 1:00 am, when we broke until 2:00 pm the next day. ILWU President Willie Adams and Vice-President (Mainland) Bobby

Olvera attended to show their support that afternoon. We went back into mediation and traded proposals until we reached a deal at 1:00 am on August 2, 2019. We secured all 31 of the tentative agreements, along with modest wage increases. We limited the premium share to a more modest increase that would affect the economy plan during the last 6 months of the contract, offset by a one-time lump sum payment from the State. We also reduced the non-residential differential by 20%. During our final 2 days of mediation, we had a solid picket line outside our meeting – with supporters who played drums and chanted – refusing to leave until we got a contract.

We heard them say, what seemed like thousands of times: “What do you want? A fair contract! When do you want it? NOW!” President Sara Nelson of the Flight Attendants, sent the following message to us on Friday, August 2, 2019, at 3:00 am, upon hearing we reached a settlement, “Way to go, BREAKING NEWS: Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU) just arrived at a tentative agreement with Alaska Marine Highway. And I hear it’s a good one! Picket lines are coming down. When we fight, we win!”

A special thank you to everyone who assisted in some way with planning, strategies, political outreach, rallies, messaging and more. Most of all, thank you to our amazing members in Alaska, for without their continued solidarity and commitment, this could not have been achieved. We dared to stand up and fight back at this turbulent time in Alaska, we kept our focus on getting a fair contract and we won!

– Marina V. Secchitano
IBU President

Categories: Unions

International solidarity in the fight against automation and outsourcing (Video)

ILWU - Mon, 08/12/2019 - 11:58

ILWU International President Willie Adams traveled to Australia meet with wharfies at DP World in a strong show of international solidarity for the Maritime Union of Australia’s fight against outsourcing, automation, and threats of job cuts.
“Actions speak louder than words. I came here to see the workers of DP World, that’s why I’m here. To support them and stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters. Because I’m a worker too, I know that feeling, I know what it’s like to struggle,” Adams said.
“My union, the ILWU, and dockers all over the world stand behind you. Stand strong, stand tall, be militant, unapologetic.”
Former ITF chair, and now senator, Tony Sheldon and ITF Dockers’ Section chair Paddy Crumlin also fronted up to throw support behind the workers.

Watch the videos below.

https://www.ilwu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/69139068_457052401543754_2858620454423984567_n.mp4 https://www.ilwu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/10000000_723313354789092_4777276344761051733_n.mp4
Categories: Unions
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