By Arun Gupta - In These Times, October 25, 2016
Last year, at age 17, Eli Fishel moved out of her parents’ house in Vancouver, Washington, squeezing into a three-bedroom apartment with five other roommates. To pay her bills as she finished high school, Fishel landed a job at Burgerville, a fast-food chain with 42 outlets and more than 1,500 employees in the Pacific Northwest.
Founded in 1961, Burgerville has cultivated a loyal following by emphasizing fresh, local food, combined with sustainable business practices like renewable energy and recycling. But Fishel quickly realized she wasn’t part of Burgerville’s commitment to “regional vitality” and “future generations.”
After 16 months on the job, she earns just $9.85 an hour, barely above the Washington State minimum wage. Her hours and shifts fluctuate weekly, with only a few days’ notice, and every month she goes hungry because she runs out of money to buy food.
Speaking of the privately-owned Burgerville, Fishel says, “We’re poor because they’re rich, and they’re rich because we’re poor.”
Disgruntled Burgerville workers began covertly organizing in 2015. The Burgerville Workers Union (BVWU) went public on April 26 with a march of more than 100 people through Portland, Oregon, and the delivery of a letter to the corporate headquarters in Vancouver. BVWU demands include a $5-an-hour raise for all hourly workers, recognition of a workers organization, affordable, quality healthcare, a safe and healthy workplace, and fair and consistent scheduling with ample notice.
Some BVWU members call their effort “Fight for $15, 2.0,” playing off the name of the fast-food worker campaign launched in 2011 by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
SEIU has won plaudits for making the plight of low-wage workers a national issue and igniting the movement for new laws boosting the minimum wage to $15 an hour. But the campaign has not, thus far, included efforts to unionize individual workplaces.
Unlike Fight for $15, which Middlebury College sociology professor and labor expert Jamie McCallum describes as “a fairly top-down campaign,” BVWU is a worker-initiated and -led project backed by numerous labor organizations. The group of Burgerville workers who came up with the idea includes members of Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a militant union with West Coast roots that date back to the early 1900s. The campaign has the backing of the Portland chapter of IWW and the support SEIU Local 49, the Portland Association of Teachers, and Jobs with Justice.
This scrappy approach enabled BVWU to leapfrog Fight for $15 by declaring a union from the start. While BVWU has not yet formally petitioned for recognition and Burgerville has not chosen to voluntarily negotiate with it, the union has established worker committees in five stores, is developing units in a similar number of shops and counts scores of workers as members.
BVWU is full of lessons in how organizing works. One member likens the campaign to “low-level guerrilla warfare” with workers maneuvering to increase their ranks, build power on the shop floor, expand the terrain from shop to shop, while skirmishing with managers over the work process, and suffering casualties as some members have quit or say they were pushed out of their jobs at Burgerville. In the workplace, the strategy is to develop leaders, form committees for each store, and nurture trust and respect between workers. Outside, BVWU uses direct action to empower workers and bring suppliers into the conversation. The union also works to build community support by mobilizing social-justice groups, clergy, and organized labor to win over the public and pressure the company.
McCallum says that BVWU an example of social movement unionism. “It’s about organizing as a class against another class,” he says. “It’s to win demands not just against a single boss or to change a law, but to engage in class struggle.”
You may have heard that I don’t have much patience for politicians, especially ones who want our help when they’re desperate for votes or contributions – then ignore us when we need their support.
I liked Bernie Sanders because he was different in all the right ways. He says the right things and votes the right way when it comes to unions and the working class.
He doesn’t flip-flop or wait for polls before taking a stand. When his campaign ended last summer, Sanders got 13 million Americans to stand with him, which impressed the hell out of me – and made me hopeful about our future – especially because so many young people supported him.
But now we have a different choice, and it isn’t pretty. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have got problems. I was never a fan of Bill Clinton. The way he pushed NAFTA and “free trade” was enough for me. His deals with Wall Street made it clear he didn’t stand with working people. Less than a decade after Clinton loosened bank regulations, Wall Street greed almost brought down our country and caused the biggest economic disaster since the Great Depression. Millions of people lost their jobs and homes – while people on Wall Street and their political friends just got richer.
Let’s face it – Hillary has some of the same problems. To name a few, she is too close to Wall Street and can’t be trusted on corporate-controlled trade deals. Normally, those things would be deal-killers for me. But this isn’t a normal election, because the alternative is Donald Trump.
Trump is appealing to many, including some of my friends.
They like that he’s confident and talks tough. But none of that matters compared to one fact: Donald Trump is anti-union. I mean real anti-union. Not just a waffler like Hillary Clinton who might say something nice to union members one day and something nice to business leaders the next.
Donald Trump isn’t the solution to America’s problems, he IS the problem! Just look at what’s happening right now to workers at the Trump Hotel in Las Vegas. Management there has been waging a nasty, anti-union campaign against workers for almost two years. They hired anti-union consultants who were paid more than half a million dollars to gut the working class. They suspended, threatened and interrogated union supporters.
Despite all that and more, workers still voted to join the hotel workers union in Las Vegas where 57,000 are already members with good pay, benefits and job security.
The story gets worse, because workers at the Trump Hotel Las Vegas voted to join the union back in December of 2015 and the company is still refusing to negotiate a fair contract. After picketing that hotel for months, those workers finally decided to launch a boycott of all Trump hotels, golf courses and other businesses.
I think the workers at the Trump Hotel Las Vegas deserve our support. And I think we should take it a step further by boycotting Trump in the election. As far as I’m concerned, voting for him when workers at the Trump Hotel are walking the picket line is no different than crossing their picket line.
Over a year ago he suggested to the auto industry in Michigan to move their operation to states with lower wages. Sounds anti-union to me!
We cannot stand with Trump and everything he represents from his tax evasion, to his sexist insults, to his threats of appointing Supreme Court Justices who would roll back protections for all workers, women, and minorities.
We, the ILWU, are better than that. And we, the ILWU, deserve better than that.
Starting in October, teams of ILWU members will fan out across the country to contact union members and other voters in six states where we’re supporting pro-union candidates. One of the places we’re going is Las Vegas – and our team will be joining that picket line with workers from the Trump Hotel Las Vegas.
I’ll be voting too, and this year it will be for Hillary Clinton. Not because she’s a progressive leader– she isn’t. I’m voting for her because we have to stop Donald Trump and the anti-union movement from getting any stronger. And because those hotel workers in Las Vegas are out on a picket line. And because I don’t cross picket lines, don’t scab, and will never vote for an anti-union candidate. I hope you’ll consider doing the same.
An injury to one is an injury to all.
The ILWU Puget Sound District Council and Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies sponsored a September 21showing of the new film called “Fix It: Health Care at the Tipping Point.” The one-hour documentary explains why America’s patchwork of government- funded, privately-controlled, employer-based health care is failing both workers and businesses because it results in higher costs and lower quality than single-payer universal health systems could provide.
Hot topic in Presidential race
The ILWU has long advocated for a single-payer health care system. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders popularized that position with his “Medicare for All” idea that helped him win 13 million votes. That support forced candidate Hillary Clinton to back a flawed “public option” that would allow citizens to buy their own Medicare plans while retaining the private insurance system with a patchwork of regulations and incentives. Donald Trump supports a “free enterprise” plan that would abolish Obama’s Affordable Care Act that would double the number of Americans without health insurance – stripping coverage from 22 million Americans. His system would also use tax breaks that disproportionately favor the super-rich.
Businessman backs “Medicare for All”
A panel discussion followed the screening that included the film’s surprising producer – businessman Richard Master who owns a $200 million framing company, and has become a passionate supporter of affordable, single-payer system, such as “Medicare for All.”
Master says he was increasingly frustrated at the constant rising cost of health care insurance, but had an epiphany after making a trip outside the U.S. where there were better health care systems with more affordable services and much cheaper drug prices. He decided to fund the film in order to share what he’s learned with the public – and urge business leaders here to reconsider their support for the status quo’s excessive costs and quality problems. He says many Canadian business owners can’t understand how their counterparts in the U.S. are still backing a system that hurts both businesses and workers. His film makes a convincing case for U.S. business to reconsider that position.
Experts and activists
Joining Richard Master on the panel were Dr. David McLanahan, Surgeon Emeritus of Pacific Medical Centers and Dr. Stephen Bezruchka of the University of Washington’s School of Health. The event was MC’d by Michael McCann, Director of the Harry Bridges Labor Center.
The Puget Sound District Council (PSDC) spearheaded the evening at the urging of IBU Secretary-Treasurer Terri Mast, who also serves as PSDC Vice President. Additional help was provided by staff at the Harry Bridges Center along with Jimi Limric from Local 9 who also contributed time and effort.
Private insurance and profit Local 19’s Dan McKisson, who helped organize the event, said, “reforming America’s current system – like Obama tried to do – is doomed to fail because of the private, profit making insurance system.” He says the film points out that our current system is much more expensive and delivers lower-quality care than successful single- payer systems operating in other leading nations. McKisson praised the film for explaining how business owners and workers share a common interest in replacing the current system that puts such a heavy burden on employers, unions and remains a leading cause a personal bankruptcy for workers.
As the Dispatcher goes to press in mid-October, teams of ILWU members are being dispatched to work in six states where pro-union candidates are fighting to win seats in the U.S. Senate – and stop anti-union Presidential Candidate Donald Trump from reaching the White House.
In early September, International President Robert McEllrath notified local unions and pensioners that the ILWU Titled Officers had developed a “Battleground States Campaign Plan.”
“The officers would like to send a team of two ILWU members plus one pensioner to six states where a pro-union candidate needs our help,” McEllrath explained, adding that the teams will work hard during the final two weeks of the election.
“The goal,” he said, “is to elect enough pro-union members in the U.S. Senate to secure majority support for unions and working class concerns.”
Here’s a roundup of teams that were preparing to depart for locations around the country:
Regina Shore from Local 19 is leading the ILWU’s Nevada team with Keith Madding of the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU) San Francisco Region plus Local 19 members Kevin Baldado and Steve Labbe. Their goal is to reach working class voters in Clark County, the area surrounding Las Vegas where 2 out of 3 active Nevada voters reside. The ILWU is backing Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto, Nevada’s former Attorney General who is pro-union and trying to take the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Harry Reid. She’s running against Joe Heck, an anti-union candidate funded by big business and the Koch Brothers. Heck had a slight lead in early October polls, but experts believe Latino turnout could determine the race, and one of Heck’s family members was recently caught sending racist insults about Latinos. In a desperate move, Heck dropped his longstanding support for Donald Trump on October 8.
Local 5’s Dane Fredericks is heading the ILWU’s Pennsylvania team with Gary Bucknum of the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU) Columbia River Region and Local 19 member Alexandra Vekich. They will be working to support U.S. Senate candidate Katie McGinty, who is pro-union and hopes to become the state’s first female U.S. Senator.
She’s running against first-term, antiunion, incumbent Pat Toomey who backs “free trade” agreements for big business and opposes union rights.
The team will focus on suburban “swing” voters surrounding Philadelphia who are expected to determine the election’s outcome. Recent polls show McGinty and Toomey were in a virtual tie, with Toomey waffling on whether he supports Donald Trump Ohio IBU member Erik Ferrel is leading the ILWU’s Ohio team with Local 5 member Mark Sailor and Victor Pamiroyan from Local 6. The
Ohio team arrived in Cleveland and is squaring-off against a clever, first term, anti-union incumbent Senator named Rob Portman, who opposes strong labor laws and has been weak for working families. Portman’s campaign is financed by big business and the Koch Brothers. The ILWU candidate is former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, a strong union supporter. Recent polls show Portman leading Strickland, but the race could still be won with a good turnout.
Basketball superstar LeBron James recently endorsed Strickland and other pro-union candidates in Ohio. Antiunion Governor John Kasich is backing Portman and both men have distanced himself from Trump; although Portman continued backing Trump until one day before early voting opened on October 11.
The ILWU’s Wisconsin team is being led by Washington staffer Bianca Blomquist who’s working with Local 13’s Christine Aguirre. The duo hopes to help former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold re-take his former seat from antiunion incumbent Ron Johnson. The two are nearly tied in a close race that may be determined by voters living in the Milwaukee suburbs, where Aguirre and Blomquist expect to invest some of their time. Feingold is a strong union supporter who lost his seat in 2010 to Johnson – a wealthy business owner and Tea Party favorite. Other antiunion politicians, including Governor Scott Walker, also gained ground in 2010, passing laws that stripped public employees of most union rights.
ILWU members from Locals 10, 13, 26, 63 and 94 attended mass protests and a sit-in at the State Capitol building. Walker’s Presidential bid fizzled quickly five years later, but scapegoating unions for job losses caused by capital flight remains a staple of Wisconsin politics.
Local 19’s Todd Weeks is leading the Florida team with Walter Smith and James Jackson, Jr., both from the Alaska Longshore Division. The trio arrived in Miami where many believe the region could determine the State’s hotly-contested U.S. Senate and Presidential races. Former Presidential candidate Marco Rubio broke an earlier promise by deciding to retain the Senate seat he previously renounced.
Rubio has steadfastly maintained his anti-union stances and recently flip-flopped to endorse Donald Trump after both spent months hurling insults at each other. Rubio is now attacking the ILWU-supported candidate for U.S Senate: Patrick Murphy, a former Republican who switched parties in 2012 to become a moderate/conservative Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Local 8’s Brent Bissett is leading the ILWU team in Missouri with Local 5’s Ron Solomon and Local 10’s Melvyn Mackay. They’re helping U.S. Senate candidate Jason Kandor who is trying to unseat anti-union incumbent Roy Blunt. Kandor is a former Afghanistan veteran; Senator Blunt is a Trump supporter who avoided the draft and military service by getting three deferments.
The Senate race here is one of the closest in the country. The ILWU team expects to be working around the St. Louis area, but will travel wherever they can contact voters. Blunt’s family is filled with lobbyists who have taken advantage of the Senator’s position in Washington; his wife is a lobbyist, along with his children Matt, Andy, and Amy who are also registered lobbyists.
The Senator has also been criticized for living in a $1.6 million mansion in Washington that costs about 15 times more than an average home in St. Louis or Kansas City.
Teamster-company deal rejected
In the same vote, workers soundly rejected a representation bid from the Teamsters Union that managed to win only 2 votes from the 23 JBA employees, despite aggressive campaigning that came with obvious management support.
“We wanted a strong, independent union that would give us a voice – not a union that was already in bed with the company,” said longtime JBA driver Humberto Alvarez.
Nearly all the drivers work out of JBA’s headquarters in Wilmington, CA. Two drivers who service Bay Area refineries are based in Pittsburgh, CA.
Performing a vital task
The JBA workers perform a vital task by removing petroleum coke – a by-product of the oil-refining process that constantly accumulates inside refineries when crude oil is “cracked” into a wide range of products, from gasoline and other fuels to tar for paving roads.
A different kind of Coke
Petroleum coke is a hard, grey material that contains much more carbon than coal. JBA drivers haul away this “pet coke” using a fleet of 29 tractors and 75 double-trailers that deliver the material to different facilities – including the massive Oxbow terminal on Pier G at the Port of Long Beach which is staffed by ILWU members. The Oxbow workers store and manage millions of tons of coke each year that is eventually loaded by longshore workers onto bulk carrier vessels heading for Asia where most of the carbon-rich material is burned to fuel power plants and cement kilns, or used as a critical additive for making iron and steel.
Supply chain support
A group of 58 Oxbow workers went through their own struggle to join the ILWU back in 2005 when they voted to join Local 13’s Allied Division. Since then they have successfully negotiated contracts with Oxbow – privately owned by billionaire William Koch who controls much of America’s pet coke industry.
Solidarity makes a difference
“We already knew the guys at JBA because they come here all the time,” said Steve Cannon who’s worked at Oxbow for more than a decade. “It was natural for us to help them out because we were once in their shoes, before we organized to join the ILWU.”
JBA workers responded positively to advice from Oxbow workers. “They told us what to expect from management when it was crunch time just before the vote, and their predictions were 100% accurate,” said JBA driver Humberto Alvarez.
Begging for one more chance
One of the predictions was an 11th hour appeal by management for “just one more chance to make things right.” Such pleas are common anti-union tactics that management uses to sway workers in the final days on a union organizing campaign – usually with an emotional appeal, often include “tears” shed by sobbing executives who appears sincere, full of remorse for past “mistakes,” willing to “listen” and offering heartfelt promises to “make things right” – if the union isn’t involved.
Not fooled by tears
With workers primed to expect just such a performance, few were fooled when JBA official met with workers to beg for “one more chance” without the ILWU. Instead of falling for the tearful routine, JBA workers stuck with their plan and voted overwhelmingly to join the ILWU.
No to the company union
A simultaneous bid by the Teamsters Union to win the union election fizzled badly despite a show featuring big Teamster trucks with giant billboards, lots of Teamster jackets and dozens of flyers. The cozy relationship between company managers who invited the Teamsters to get involved after workers expressed support for the ILWU, doomed that effort in the eyes of most workers.
“It was obvious to everyone that the Teamsters were the company’s union, and we didn’t want that,” said JBA driver John Soto.
Getting a good contract
“Now it’s all about helping these workers get a good first contract,” said ILWU Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe, who oversees the ILWU’s organizing campaigns. Familathe complimented the workers for their unity and determination to join the ILWU, despite many obstacles that were thrown into their path.
“It’s always a struggle to get this far, but these guys pulled together and got it done,” he said. Familathe noted that JBA has provided transportation services to the petroleum industry for over 30 years, and said their parent company, Bragg, is a successful operation with union contracts that cover many employees.
“Everyone at our end is prepared and ready to do their part, so we’re looking forward to negotiating a faircontract with JBA,” said Familathe.
Issues of concern
Some of the concerns that led JBA drivers to join the ILWU include a lack of respect, scheduling problems, unfair work distribution, long and sometime unpaid wait times, and the use of independent subcontractors.
“There are problems at JBA that need to be fixed, but all of us feel better now that we have a union,” said Angel Jauregui. “Having support from ILWU union brothers at Oxbow and others around the harbor area is really important to us. We’re glad to be part of the ILWU.”
The 49th annual Pacific Coast Pensioners Association (PCPA) convention met in Tacoma, WA from Sept 12-14. The convention coincided with several events in Tacoma that recognized the important contribution of the longshore labor struggles to the city’s working class history.
The convention’s theme emphasized the need to honor the history and sacrifice of previous generations, to protect the benefits won by past generations and to pass along knowledge and traditions to future generations.
Two events were scheduled on Sunday before the Convention to honor the union’s history— an afternoon ceremony dedicated a plaque on the Murray Morgan Bridge to commemorate the 1916 longshore strike.
Later that evening a bronze statue of Harry Bridges was unveiled at the Local 23 hall. On the first evening of the Convention, Local 23 members hosted a celebration of the new Philip Martin Lelli Memorial Highway, dedicated in honor of Local 23’s former longtime President.
“Fate and history smiled on Tacoma during the PCPA convention,” said Mike Jagielski, President of the Local 23 Pensioners Club and Chair of the convention’s 2016 planning committee, who was pleased that so many special events were held during the Convention week.
A total of 207 registered attendees came to this year’s convention—making it one of the largest PCPA events in recent years. Fraternal guests included the ILWU International titled officers: International President Robert McEllrath, Vice President Ray Familathe, and Secretary Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams. Coast Committeemen Frank Ponce De Leon and Cam Williams also attended as did the local union President’s from Longshore locals up and down the coast. Like previous Conventions, this one was dedicated to the memory of ILWU pensioners who have passed during the previous year.
Remembering the 1916 Strike
On September 11, several hundred ILWU members and pensioners marched across the Eleventh Street Bridge (now known as the Murray Morgan Bridge) to the spot where striker Alexander Laidlaw was fatally shot 100 years before. The bridge was the main conduit between downtown Tacoma and the Port; it became the focus of many confrontations between striking longshoremen and scabs during the late 1800’s into the 1930’s. One-hundred years later, marchers sang union songs and carried signs bearing slogans from the 1916 struggle to re-create the spirit of that strike.
A brief street theater performance helped to re-create Tacoma’s labor history, thanks to current members and pensioners who portrayed key figures in Local 23’s early struggles. Mike Jagielski portrayed Charles Trench, founder of the Tacoma longshore local; International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams portrayed Alexander Laidlaw, a striker in the 1916 battle; Local 23 pensioner Eddie McGrath played Martin Fredrickson, a striker from the 1934 west coast waterfront strike; and Local 23 member Brian Skiffington represented “Everyman” of the current workforce. Each actor told about their struggles and sacrifices, hopes and dreams that built the union during more than a century of conflict.
Plaque honors ILWU martyr
A special memorial honoring the 1916 strikers began with the laying of a flower wreath in the Thea Foss Waterway, where special recognition was given to Alexander Laidlaw. Then a plaque was dedicated on the 11th Street Bridge to honor his death during 1916 strike. It was noted that today’s
Tacoma City Council had recently passed a resolution recognizing the 1916 strike and authorizing the permanent placement of the plaque.
Credit to young workers
Pensioners also credited members of Local 23’s Young Workers Committee, who came up with the idea for a plaque on the bridge to honor the 1916 strikers, while attending joint meetings with the Tacoma pensioners.
“Tacoma is a gritty, working-class city and it’s appropriate that we have this tribute to these workers. It’s an important part of the history of the city,” said Jagielski, one of the event organizers and chair of the Convention Host Committee.
Local 23 President Dean McGrath said the bridge remains an important symbol. “You will always have a conflict between capital and labor. This a reminder of what can happen when we don’t work out our differences.”
Harry Bridges statue
On the evening of September 11, a bronze statue of Harry Bridges was unveiled at the Local 23 Hall, honoring one of the ILWU’s most celebrated founders.
Contribution from a quiet member
The idea for a statue was a final wish of Local 23 pensioner Emil Korjan who passed away in 2015 at the age of 92 and left $25,000 to help fund the statue. Korjan was a Local 23 member who played an important role in the Local’s history by introducing the motion in 1958 that led to the local union leaving the ILA and affiliating instead with the ILWU.
“Korjan never ran for office and wasn’t the kind of person who wanted to be in the limelight, but he was active in the union and proud to have introduced the motion that brought this local into the ILWU,” Jagielski said.
Fundraising to finish the job
Local 23’s Pensioner Club raised the remaining funds for the statue with generous contributions from Local 23 active members and pensioners. A critical donation of $35,000 from the Coast Longshore Division at the recent longshore caucus in San Francisco plus a donation from the Southern California Pensioners Group put the fundraising effort over the top.
The unveiling ceremony drew a packed house at the hall from Local 23 members, pensioners, International officers and community members.
Local President Dean McGrath welcomed guests and introduced International President Bob McEllrath who spoke about Bridges’ central role in the formation of the ILWU, his lifelong commitment to Civil Rights, and dedication to fighting for the working class. When McEllrath finished, he signaled to McGrath who unveiled the sculpture that triggered an enthusiastic round of applause. Bridges’ daughter, Cathy, also spoke at the event and thanked the union for continuing her father’s effort to build a union by and for labor and the working class.
The statue portrays Bridges larger at 6’-4” than he was, at about 5’-6,” but sculptor Paul Michaels said he deliberately took artistic license with Bridges’ height to capture the labor leader’s oversized role in America’s working class history. The efforts of artist Paul Michaels were recognized during the ceremony and received a standing ovation. The sculpture is based on film footage of Bridges, captured during a 1986 visit to Tacoma when he commemorated the Local’s 100th anniversary.
Finding a permanent home
The sculpture will be displayed temporarily at the Local 23 hall until a permanent home for the statue is secured. Emil Korjan had wanted it displayed at a place of learning where students would see it. Possible permanent locations for the statue include the University of Washington Tacoma campus or Bates Technical College.
Last minute details
Jagielski, who spearheaded the effort to make Korjan’s dream a reality, said he wasn’t sure the statue unveiling could actually happen until just days before the event. He said that spot welding and grinding work on the statue went late in the night before it was transported to the hall on Friday.
A whole team of volunteers from Local 23, the Federated Auxiliary, pensioners and family members all chipped-in to make the Sunday night unveiling a success.
Welcome from Tacoma’s Mayor
Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland welcomed the PCPA Convention attendees on the first day. She highlighted the importance of the longshore industry and the ILWU to Tacoma’s economy, history and culture. She also cited the many events during the PCPA Convention that memorialize and celebrate that history.
“It really speaks to who we are as a city,” said Strickland. “The City of Tacoma is an international waterfront city and blue collar work is a part of our DNA. We have to remember where we came from. And while we are here to celebrate and thank you for the work that you’ve done in the past, understand that what we are talking about is not just about history, it’s about the future. What future opportunities will young people have to make family wage jobs?”
New PCPA charter
The convention welcomed the Alaska Pensioners Club with a new charter from the PCPA. President McEllrath presented the charter to Alaska pensioner Pee Wee Smith.
“The PCPA is growing and will continue to grow,” said PCPA President Greg Mitre. He noted that representatives from the Panama Pensioners had planned to attend, but were unable to because of pressing issues at home that required attention. “I can guarantee you that next year there will be representatives from Panama at our convention in Southern California,” Mitre said.
Mitre updated the convention including his attendance at the recent Longshore Caucuses in Panama and San Francisco. He also attended a meeting to discuss proposals for long term care insurance that might cover longshore members and possibly pensioners.
Automation & bankruptcy
Mitre touched on some new challenges that longshore workers are now facing, including automated terminals in Southern California and the recent bankruptcy of South Korean shipping company, Hanjin. He said the bankruptcy is the first fallout caused by dramatic decline in prices carriers can charge for transporting containers, due to the surplus capacity in the world shipping fleet.
“Hanjin is the first domino to fall and experts are saying they may not be last. There is going to be a ripple effect through the entire industry,” Mitre said.
“Where this goes is yet to be seen.” Mitre concluded his report by emphasizing the role of the PCPA in supporting the ILWU’s active membership.
“I think the role of the PCPA is to support the officers, to be there for them and ask them what they need. We are fortunate to be included. In most industries, pensioners don’t get to play the role that we do. The PCPA’s role is to do whatever we can to ensure that the ILWU continues to prosper,” Mitre said.
Phil Lelli Highway
On the evening of September 12, the Local 23 hall was filled to capacity again, this time to celebrate the dedication of the Philip Martin Lelli Memorial Highway. The Washington State Transportation Commission adopted Resolution 728 that named a section of State Route 509 in Tacoma after Lelli to honor the man’s contribution to the Port and City of Tacoma.
Lelli was elected President of ILWU Local 23 multiple times for nearly two decades, serving from 1966 and 1985. He is credited with bringing greater efficiency to the Port of Tacoma that significantly increased container volumes. He was also recognized for his community service to help those in need at Tacoma’s Hospitality Kitchen and various food banks in the South Sound.
Young Worker’s Committee
The convention took time to hear from members of Young Workers Committees at ILWU locals in Canada and the Pacific Northwest – plus special guests from the Young Workers Committee at the Maritime Union of Australia whose example inspired similar Committees to form in the US and Canada
The presentation began with a short video from the recent Young Workers Conference held in Canada. Attendees from the conference were interviewed about what “solidarity” meant to them.
Following the video, young workers from the Maritime Union of Australia, ILWU Canada and ILWU Locals in the Pacific Northwest, talked about their efforts to organize educational forums and communication programs to help inform new workers about the labor movement and their role in developing a strong, democratic labor movement.
After their presentation, the young workers received a standing ovation from pensioners. “This is the future of the ILWU right here,” said Mitre.
Youth video artists
Following the Young Workers Committee presentation, the convention screened a video about the 1934 West Coast Waterfront Strike made by three high school juniors from Redmond Middle School in Redmond, WA. Their film features newly-discovered archival footage and won first= place in their state competition (See their “Letter to the Editor” in the July/ August 2016 issue of The Dispatcher).
Solidarity agreement with MUA Veterans
Local 23 Pensioner Jim Norton and MUA veteran Jim Donovan made the official presentation of a signed solidarity agreement between the PCPA and the MUA pensioners. The MUA and ILWU pensioners maintain a close relationship, as do the active memberships of both unions.
Reports from Local Union Presidents
The convention heard from several ILWU local Presidents, including Local 19’s Rich Austin Jr, and Local 13’s President Bobby Olvera, Jr. Austin talked about the important role that pensioners play at Local 19 for active members, where they are a valuable source of experience and information.
He then presented Greg Mitre with a check for $5,000 from Local 19’s membership to the PCPA.
So Cal automation impact
Local 13 President Bobby Olvera Jr., talked about the new automated terminal in the Port of Long Beach.
“Every piece of equipment they are purchasing for these automated facilities is not to become more efficient but to get rid of workers. This will impact not only the ILWU, but the whole community,” Olvera said. “Robots don’t give back to the community; they don’t buy houses or pay taxes.” Olvera said that Long Beach Container Terminal’s automated facility will replace 600 jobs in a 24-hour period when the terminal is operating at full capacity. He noted the irony of seeing the company’s robots painted red, white and blue.
Subsidies for robots
“We have to develop an outside game. We are working to make it clear to politicians that you can’t provide tax breaks, grants or other public monies from the federal, state or local government to foreign companies that replace American jobs with robots.” He said that Local 13, 63 94 and the Coast Longshore Division recently killed= legislation that would have given a tax rebate to companies that buy automated equipment.
Olvera also talked about the new dispatch hall in Southern California which is sitting empty because of ongoing traffic and access issues. “We’re not going to move 7,000 men and women into a hiring hall that causes discontent because they have difficulty getting in and out.”
The convention also heard from Local 10 President Ed Ferris, Local 5 President Mike Stanton, Local 63 President Paul Trani, Local 91 President Fred Gilliam and Local 94 President Danny Miranda.
Coast Committee Report
Coast Committeemen Frank Ponce De Leon and Cam Williams addressed the delegates. Williams delivered the bulk of the report and gave a detailed update on grain negotiations in the Northwest.
ILWU Coast Benefits Specialist John Castanho joined Benefit Plan Area Directors and coordinators for the Alcohol and Drug Recovery Program who provided information to Convention delegates. Also present were representatives of the Benefit Plans Office (BPO).
All of these experts made themselves available to answer questions and provide updates about health and pension plans. They reminded pensioners to update their address with the benefits plan office whenever they move in order to prevent any delays in getting checks – and encouraged everyone to sign up for direct deposit at their ILWU Credit Union or other institution. The new ADRP representative for Southern California, Tamiko Love, was introduced and will replace Jackie Cummings who retired earlier this year.
Victory for farmworkers
Pensioner Rich Austin Sr. announced that workers who organized their independent union called “Familias Unidas por la Justicia” (FUJ) won an overwhelming victory in their recent union election at Sakuma Farms. He noted that the ILWU’s 2015 International Convention passed a resolution supporting FUJ, said the Washington Area Pensioners and Local 19 have been actively supporting the workers’ campaign. At last year’s PCPA convention in San Francisco, he recalled that pensioners and active members held a demonstration to support the farmworkers at a nearby Whole Foods market.
ILWU International President Robert McEllrath spoke on the second day of the convention. He summarized debate at the recent longshore caucus in San Francisco where delegates voted to explore the concept of discussions with the Pacific Maritime Association about early contract talks. McEllrath also noted the importance of the ILWU hiring halls, and warned that employers are attempting to undermine this important source of strength for longshore workers.
He said the PMA had approached him with an idea of using automated dispatch through cell phones to replace the hiring halls. “I told them—‘don’t ever bring that up to me again.’” McEllrath said that working out of the hall is a privilege. “Harry Bridges and 1934 strikers fought for that hiring hall and I’ll be damned if I’m going to give that up!” he said.
Vice President & Sec. Treasurer
ILWU International Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe spoke about his early years in the ILWU and being locked-out by rail yard employers when he was a member of the Local 13’s Allied Division. “We had guns pointed at us while scabs were escorted across our picket line,” Familathe recalled, and warned that employers may try similar tactics in the future. He updated Convention delegates about the ILWU’s ongoing contract campaigns and organizing efforts, including a recent organizing victory by JBA truck drivers in California (see article on page 2 in this issue).
ILWU Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams, who also serves as President of the San Francisco Port Commission, attended the first days of the Convention but was unable to speak because of a Port Commission meeting in San Francisco.
A host of important speakers
Other speakers at the convention included Northwest Seaport Alliance CEO John Wolfe; Tacoma Mayor Emeritus Bill Baarsma who now serves as President of the Tacoma Historical Society; Washington State Labor Council President Jeff Johnson; Washington State Senator and candidate for the 7th Congressional District, Pramila Jayapal.
PCPA Poet Laureate Jerry Brady read his poem, “The First Tacoma Longshore,” and received a warm welcome\ for his work. Also speaking at the event was Conor Casey from the University of Washington’s Labor Archives. Casey gave an update about the Archives’ effort to preserve the history of working people in the Pacific Northwest.
The PCPA Convention delegates passed several resolutions
- Supporting the ILWU Longshore Division;
- Asking the International Union to clarify rights of pensioners as fraternal delegates to submit resolutions and/or make motion sat ILWU conventions;
- Allowing the Local 23 Pensioners Club major ports status;
- Creating a Long Term Care committee;
- Reverting back to previous language stating that the PCPA convention will be held “the first Monday after the second Wednesday in September.”
- Adding one Executive Board seat for Alaska and Tacoma.
- Supporting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all nations opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline;
- Supporting efforts by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, an organization of incarcerated workers, to end the system of unpaid and underpaid prison labor. PCPA elections & next Convention PCPA President Greg Mitre, Vice President Lawrence Thibeaux, Recording Secretary Kenzie Mullen and Treasurer Chris Gordon, were elected by acclimation. The next PCPA convention will be held in Long Beach, CA from September 18-20, 2017, at the Maya Hotel.
This following is a statement from the IWW Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee.
Prisoners from across the United States have just released this call to action for a nationally coordinated prisoner workstoppage against prison slavery to take place on September 9th, 2016.
This is a Call to Action Against Slavery in America
In one voice, rising from the cells of long term solitary confinement, echoed in the dormitories and cell blocks from Virginia to Oregon, we prisoners across the United States vow to finally end slavery in 2016.
On September 9th of 1971 prisoners took over and shut down Attica, New York State’s most notorious prison. On September 9th of 2016, we will begin an action to shut down prisons all across this country. We will not only demand the end to prison slavery, we will end it ourselves by ceasing to be slaves.
In the 1970s the US prison system was crumbling. In Walpole, San Quentin, Soledad, Angola and many other prisons, people were standing up, fighting and taking ownership of their lives and bodies back from the plantation prisons. For the last six years we have remembered and renewed that struggle. In the interim, the prisoner population has ballooned and technologies of control and confinement have developed into the most sophisticated and repressive in world history. The prisons have become more dependent on slavery and torture to maintain their stability.
Prisoners are forced to work for little or no pay. That is slavery. The 13th amendment to the US constitution maintains a legal exception for continued slavery in US prisons. It states “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” Overseers watch over our every move, and if we do not perform our appointed tasks to their liking, we are punished. They may have replaced the whip with pepper spray, but many of the other torments remain: isolation, restraint positions, stripping off our clothes and investigating our bodies as though we are animals.
Slavery is alive and well in the prison system, but by the end of this year, it won’t be anymore. This is a call to end slavery in America. This call goes directly to the slaves themselves. We are not making demands or requests of our captors, we are calling ourselves to action. To every prisoner in every state and federal institution across this land, we call on you to stop being a slave, to let the crops rot in the plantation fields, to go on strike and cease reproducing the institutions of your confinement.
This is a call for a nation-wide prisoner work stoppage to end prison slavery, starting on September 9th, 2016. They cannot run these facilities without us.
Non-violent protests, work stoppages, hunger strikes and other refusals to participate in prison routines and needs have increased in recent years. The 2010 Georgia prison strike, the massive rolling California hunger strikes, the Free Alabama Movement’s 2014 work stoppage, have gathered the most attention, but they are far from the only demonstrations of prisoner power. Large, sometimes effective hunger strikes have broken out at Ohio State Penitentiary, at Menard Correctional in Illinois, at Red Onion in Virginia as well as many other prisons. The burgeoning resistance movement is diverse and interconnected, including immigrant detention centers, women’s prisons and juvenile facilities. Last fall, women prisoners at Yuba County Jail in California joined a hunger strike initiated by women held in immigrant detention centers in California, Colorado and Texas.
Prisoners all across the country regularly engage in myriad demonstrations of power on the inside. They have most often done so with convict solidarity, building coalitions across race lines and gang lines to confront the common oppressor.
Forty-five years after Attica, the waves of change are returning to America’s prisons. This September we hope to coordinate and generalize these protests, to build them into a single tidal shift that the American prison system cannot ignore or withstand. We hope to end prison slavery by making it impossible, by refusing to be slaves any longer.
To achieve this goal, we need support from people on the outside. A prison is an easy-lockdown environment, a place of control and confinement where repression is built into every stone wall and chain link, every gesture and routine. When we stand up to these authorities, they come down on us, and the only protection we have is solidarity from the outside. Mass incarceration, whether in private or state-run facilities is a scheme where slave catchers patrol our neighborhoods and monitor our lives. It requires mass criminalization. Our tribulations on the inside are a tool used to control our families and communities on the outside. Certain Americans live every day under not only the threat of extra-judicial execution—as protests surrounding the deaths of Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland and so many others have drawn long overdue attention to—but also under the threat of capture, of being thrown into these plantations, shackled and forced to work.
Our protest against prison slavery is a protest against the school to prison pipeline, a protest against police terror, a protest against post-release controls. When we abolish slavery, they’ll lose much of their incentive to lock up our children, they’ll stop building traps to pull back those who they’ve released. When we remove the economic motive and grease of our forced labor from the US prison system, the entire structure of courts and police, of control and slave-catching must shift to accommodate us as humans, rather than slaves.
Prison impacts everyone, when we stand up and refuse on September 9th, 2016, we need to know our friends, families and allies on the outside will have our backs. This spring and summer will be seasons of organizing, of spreading the word, building the networks of solidarity and showing that we’re serious and what we’re capable of.
Step up, stand up, and join us.
Against prison slavery.
For liberation of all.
Find more information, updates and organizing materials and opportunities at the following websites:
By the elected delegates to the 2016 IWW Convention - Industrial Workers of the World, September 3, 2016
The international convention of the Industrial Workers of the World just unanimously voted in favor of an “Emergency Resolution” in solidarity with the resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline!
In the introduction the Chair of the convention acknowledged that the convention is being held on Ohlone land. We also strongly encouraged workers to organize solidarity actions, travel to Standing Rock, and materially support the struggle.
The Industrial Workers of the World stands in solidarity with the resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline. We call on the labor movement and working class to take a stand against environmental racism and join the fight for a just transition as our collective future is at stake. We recognize that the capitalist system that oppresses the working class has always oppressed indigenous people of the World.
Therefore we feel that settlers and indigenous workers should unite to take direct action against colonial industrial capitalism and do everything in our power to restore justice to indigenous people and Mother Earth. An injury to one is an injury to all! #nodapl #sacredstonespiritcamp #redwarriorcamp #waterislife
September 4, 2016
Editor's Note: This appeal has been updated to address the attack on the demonstrators were attacked by private security led dogs.
If you've not read or seen the news about the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the vast and growing opposition to it (#NoDAPL) by now, you've not been paying attention.
According to One Account,
Beneath the cover of the endless presidential election season, which in Iowa started a year and a half ago, the Texas-based company Dakota Access LLC (a division of the corporation Energy Transfer Partners [ETP]) has moved methodically ahead with its plan to build this ugly, winding, and ecocidal tube of death. The $4 billion, 1134-mile project would carry 540,000 barrels of largely fracked crude oil from North Dakota’s “Bakken oil patch” daily on a diagonal course through South Dakota, a Sioux Indian burial ground,18 Iowa counties, and a Native American reservation to Patoka, Illinois. It will link with another pipeline that will transport the black gold to terminals and refineries along the Gulf of Mexico.
Right now, several thousand indigenous tribal members (supported by over 160 tribes), land owners, environmentalists, climate justice activists, and supporters of #BlackLivesMatter have gathered together into two camps in rural North Dakota to organize nonviolent resistance to this massive project which will parallel and match the length of the infamous (but rejected by Presidential order) Keystone XL pipeline. Several others have been protesting all along the pipeline's route over the past couple of weeks. These 1000s strong intrepid folks are supported nationally and internationally by 100,000s.
The leaders in this effort have done all they can working "within the system" to oppose this project to no avail:
Anti-pipeline activists have been playing by all the official local, state, and federal rules. They’ve gone through the established channels of law and procedure. They’ve worked the legal and regulatory machinery to the point of exhaustion. They’ve gone through all available avenues of reason and petition. They’ve written and delivered carefully worded petitions and given polite, fact-filled testimony to all the relevant public bodies. They’ve appealed to the IUB. They’ve appealed to the Army Corps of Engineers and to numerous other federal agencies and offices including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Advisory on Historic Preservation, and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration. They’ve sued in court, defending farmers’ traditional American-as-apple-pie private property rights...And it’s all been for naught because the state is stuck in the deep pockets of Big Carbon. Last week a long-awaited district court ruling in Des Moines gave DA, ETP, Enbridge, and Marathon and their big financial backers what they wanted. DA is free to complete construction on fifteen parcels where the farm owners had challenged the state’s right to enforce eminent domain on behalf of the Bakken snake.
This project would represent a disaster for the world's climate. Already humanity is experiencing a climate emergency--as the increase in the Earth's average overall surface temperature has surpassed 1°C--brought on by fossil fuel capitalism. Every sensible scientific peer reviewed study dictates that in order to avoid the destruction of the ability of humanity (and much else living) to survive on our planet, the global increase must reach no higher than 2°C, at most (and most agree that an increase beyond 1.5°C would be bad enough). In order to do this, at least 80% of the known fossil fuel "reserves" must remain in the ground. This pipeline would make that prospect increasingly difficult, because it is designed to facilitate the continuing extraction of the Bakken Shale in North Dakota.
Worse than that, this pipeline represents the further colonization of indigenous lands, particularly that which lie adjacent to or solidly within the path of this project.
None of this is necessary. Studies show that all of the world's energy needs can be met by a combination of conservation, 100% renewable energy generation--which is entirely feasible using existing technology, and a reordering of the world's economic systems to facilitate production for need, not profit. The 100,000s of people who oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline understand this.
In spite of this massive opposition however, one group, in particular, has remained disturbingly silent, and that's labor unions.
Compiled by x344543 - August 31, 2016
The following news items are culled from various other IWW (and other) internet news portals:IWW 2016 Organizing Summit:
- IWW members: Register Now for the 2016 Organizing Summit, October 8-9, Oakland, California - The 2016 Organizing Summit will bring together the organisers from the IWW’s organizing campaigns to share best practices, identify obstacles to higher effectiveness in the class war, and to mobilize the broader membership in North America behind a set of goals for building a bigger, better, and lasting revolutionary movement of the working class.
- IGDCAST: Raising Hell in the South - IWW Member Brianna Dobbs, It's Going Down, August 29, 2016
- Les employé.es du Frite Alors Rachel se syndiquent avec les IWW - By SITT-IWW, Syndicat Industriel Des Travailleuses et Des Travailleurs, August 27, 2016
- A Manhattan Diner’s New Management Has Servers Singing a Defiant Tune - By Sarah Maslin Nir, New York Times, August 26, 2016; [related]: Servers at Ellen's Stardust Diner Have Unionized Due to Claims of Poor Working Conditions - By Aimée Lutkin, Jezebel, August 30, 2016 | Singing Waiters Organize Against Alleged Unfair Treatment at Ellen's Stardust Diner - By staff, Broadway World, August 29, 2016
- Spreading the Strike: Solidarity Actions Across North America for September 9th - By staff, It's Going Down, August 16, 2016; [related]: Call for International Anarchist Action in Solidarity with US Prison Strike - By staff, Contra Info, August 26, 2016 | Incarcerated workers strike September 9 - By Viola Wilkins, IWW AU, August 19, 2016 | INSTITUTE INDEX: A strike at the heart of the prison-industrial complex - By Sue Sturgis, Facing South, August 17, 2016 | A Challenge: Spread the Strike to Every Jail, Juvie, and Prison! - By staff, It's Going Down, August 11, 2016 | Durham: IWW stands with Striking Prisoners! - By staff, It's Going Down, August 11, 2016 | Why we’re about the see the largest prison strike in history - By Jeremy Galloway, RawStory, August 11, 2016 | Atlanta: Noise Demo in Solidarity With Prison Rebels - By staff, It's Going Down, August 9, 2016
- Bristol IWW just Keeps on Winning! - By staff, Bristol IWW, August 1, 2016
- Babe Alert: Deep Roots Jessica - By bluebabe1976, Out of the Mouths of Babes, August 13, 2016
- Wobchat #2: Bristol IWW - By staff, New Syndicalist, July 27, 2016
- Retour sur la soirée d’introduction au SITT-IWW - By SITT-IWW, Syndicat Industriel Des Travailleuses et Des Travailleurs, August 31, 2016
- LE DÉNOMBREMENT - By SITT-IWW, Syndicat Industriel Des Travailleuses et Des Travailleurs, August 24, 2016
- IGDCAST: #MilwaukeeUprising - By staff, It's Going Down, August 15, 2016
- Sept mythes à propos de Postes Canada - By SITT-IWW, Syndicat Industriel Des Travailleuses et Des Travailleurs, August 15, 2016
- La lutte pour les centres d’éducation populaire - By SITT-IWW, Syndicat Industriel Des Travailleuses et Des Travailleurs, August 10, 2016
- Grève victorieuse chez les IWW, TTX Maryland vire son patron! - By SITT-IWW, Syndicat Industriel Des Travailleuses et Des Travailleurs, August 8, 2016
- Solidaire des arrêté-e-s de la Loi Travail - By SITT-IWW, Syndicat Industriel Des Travailleuses et Des Travailleurs, August 4, 2016
- We watched angry activists release thousands of bugs in a busy London restaurant - By Michael Segalov, Huck Magazine, July 30, 2016
- C’est un drôle de milieu de travail, que celui du communautaire - By SITT-IWW, Syndicat Industriel Des Travailleuses et Des Travailleurs, July 27, 2016
- Ce n’est pas facile d’être une femme organisatrice - By SITT-IWW, Syndicat Industriel Des Travailleuses et Des Travailleurs, July 25, 2016
- What does a union mean to you? #2 - By staff, New Syndicalist, August 17, 2016
- Workers' Opposition - Posted by Juan Conatz, Libcom.Org, August 6, 2016
- The Bisbee deportation of 1917 - Posted by Steven, Libcom.Org, August 1, 2016
- Solidarity forever: an oral history of the IWW: Stewart Bird, Dan Georgakas and Deborah Shaffer - Posted by Steven, Libcom.Org, July 30, 2016
- The Marine Worker - Posted by Juan Conatz, Libcom.Org, July 22, 2016
Longshore Elected Delegates Vote to Meet with West Coast Employers To Discuss Their Request for a Contract Extension
SAN FRANCISCO, CA (August 11, 2016) – More than 100 delegates from 30 West Coast ports from San Diego, CA to Bellingham, WA, who were elected by rank and file members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), convened this week to consider an employer request to discuss the possibility of an extension to the 2014-2019 collective bargaining agreement between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).
By majority vote on Thursday, delegates voted to enter into discussions with representatives of PMA regarding the concept of a contract extension and report back to the membership.
“The caucus made a tough decision under current circumstances amid a wide range of concerns and opposing views on how to respond to PMA’s request,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath. “This is a directive to go and have discussions with the PMA and report back to the membership, and we’ll do just that, with the wellbeing of the rank and file, our communities, and the nation in mind.”
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s Coast Longshore Division represents approximately 20,000 longshore workers on the West Coast of the United States.
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