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Updated: 2 weeks 3 days ago

Book Review: A History of America in Ten Strikes by Erik Loomis, The New Press (2018)

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 16:23

The assault on American workers by employers, government and the courts has increased recently, making it more difficult to organize and negotiate contracts, At the same time, sympathy toward unions from the general public has also increased – along with growing support for some strikes. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME makes it harder for public sector unions to collect dues. The court decision marked a 70-year effort by the National Right to Work Foundation to weaken unions, funded by billionaires who hate unions.

Their victory contrasts with the recent wave of teacher strikes earlier this year in West Virginia, Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, and Kentucky. These strikes occurred in so-called “right to work” states, where workers in the private-sector have few rights and strikes by public workers, are illegal. These are the same conditions that existed 100 years ago, prior to the passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935.

A new book by historian Erik Loomis, A History of America in Ten Strikes, gives historical context to the current labor movement. The book is one-part introduction to labor history and one-part introduction to the history of America as made and experienced by the working class.

“The workplace is a site where people struggle for power,” Loomis writes, and his book places that conflict at the center for an understanding of American history. Loomis notes that work is one of the few experiences that tie people together. “Fighting for better wages and conditions unites workers across industries and generations,” he says.

Each of the ten chapters are framed around one major strike. The strikes are laid out chronologically, starting with the organizing by workers in the mills of Lowell, MA in the 1830s and 1840’s, that was led by women when America was beginning to industrialize—and ending with the immigrant-led Justice for Janitors campaign of the 1980s and 1990s. In between, Loomis discusses many of the country’s most famous strikes, including the Flint Sit-Down of 1936-1937 and the most successful strike in American history—the self-emancipation of the millions of enslaved people during the Civil War.

One could argue about which strikes are spotlighted and which are not—the 1934 West Coast longshore strike gets only a few pages. But these “ten strikes” are only a window that Loomis used to view the historical and economic context surrounding each strike. It is here that Loomis really shines by giving readers a comprehensive understanding of the issues facing workers and the complex political and social landscape that workers were organizing in.

For Loomis, workers are not mere spectators to history who are shaped by forces beyond their control. He sees workers as political and economic actors who shape the world around them, and Loomis does it without romanticizing the history of working class struggle.

Working class movements have long struggled with their own internal divisions based on racial, ethnic, gender and craft differences – which is a recurring theme in the book. While many of these divisions have been exploited by employers to weaken labor movements, Loomis notes that many workers and unions have willingly embraced and maintained these divisions. While exceptions exist, such as the ILWU’s push of racial integration in the 1930s, other unions openly supported Jim Crow segregation in their locals and promoted anti-immigrant legislation such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

Racist and nativist sentiments, lack of democratic practices and corruption have all worked to undermine the strength of the labor movement. Loomis doesn’t avoid this dark history, but shows how rank-and-file movements have risen to fight discrimination and promote democratic reforms.

Another theme that emerges in A History of America in Ten Strikes, is the importance of political action by workers in order to neutralize government-employer alliances. From the beginning of industrialization, employers have used the courts, legislature, police, military and private security and mercenary forces to crush strikes and unions.

“There is simply no evidence from American history that unions can succeed if the government and employers combine to crush them,” Loomis writes. The chance of success for labor struggle increases dramatically if the state remains neutral and doesn’t put its finger on the scale in favor or the employer. Loomis continues, “After decades of struggle, in the 1930s, a new era of government passed labor legislation that gave workers the right to organize, the minimum wage, and other pillars of dignified work for the first time. While employers’ power never waned in the halls of government, the growing power of unions neutralized the worst corporate attacks until the 1980s.”

Members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) would learn this lesson in dramatic fashion when Ronald Reagan fired over 12,000 air traffic controllers during an illegal strike in 1981. The crushing of that strike ushered in a new era of attacks on organized labor.

Ironically, PATCO had endorsed Reagan during the 1980 election, despite his anti-union record. Their faulty assessment ended in a catastrophe. Loomis is clear that politicians won’t lead the charge to protect workers. That’s up to the working class, who must take collective action to challenge employer power. Now we’re living in times like the 1920s with extreme inequalities of wealth and corporate power at the expense of workers. Loomis’s book argues that our only hope is to challenge this new “Gilded Age” by building inclusive, democratic unions that understand how the government can be leveraged to benefit the working class.

Categories: Unions

John Fisher, Jr. is still diggin’ the downbeat

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 15:37

Thirty-five years ago, Fisher was still working on the docks as a Local 34 Clerk while playing at San Francisco jazz clubs, including three nights a week at Pasand’s on Union street that featured music in front and Indian food in the back. He recalls columnist
Herb Caen being a regular customer who sat by the window with a cocktail and listened to their band, called “Classax.”

Thanks to the ILWU, I’ve been able to pursue my passion as a jazz musician with performances in the San Francisco Bay Area and around the world.

Learning from jazz giants

My love for music – especially jazz – began at a young age. My Dad was a Local 34 Ship’s Clerk who drew cargo plans mostly at the Oakland Army Base in the 1950’s and 60’s. He would go down to Melrose Records in San Francisco’s Fillmore District and buy Jazz and Blues records. He loved Lionel Hampton’s Band. I remember learning to play jazz brushes to those old 78’s. The musicians who inspired me back then included Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Gene Krupa and Cozy Cole. I took lessons with some of the great musicians and studied music theory. I still practice on my drums every day. I remember how nervous I was when I first performed on stage, singing with the St. Dominic’s Boy’s Choir when I was 7 years old.

Unions helped musicians

In 1969, I became a registered member of Ship Clerks Local 34. I put a second union card in my wallet a year later when I joined Local 6 of the American Federation of Musicians. The good pay and flexible work schedule on the docks allowed me to perform and tour with bands in the U.S. and Europe. When we played Bay Area clubs in the 1970’s, most of those venues had union contracts with good wages. There were so many clubs then in San Francisco with great jazz, including The Blackhawk, Both And, the The Jazz Workshop, El Matador and Keystone Korner, just to name a few. My band was at the Starlight Roof of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel for over 2 years. One especially memorable performance was a gig with the legendary trumpeter, Chet Baker.

Change in wrong direction

When I retired from the ILWU in 2007, I couldn’t wait to get back into the music full-time and play in my favorite clubs again. What I found on the scene was far different from what I left behind a few decades before. A “race to the bottom” had turned the local music scene upside down for performers.

Collective Bargaining Agreements for musicians in nightclubs had mostly disappeared. I learned that members of the Musicians Union found themselves struggling on hard times, just like other union beginning in the 1980’s – when President Ronald Reagan declared war on unions by crushing a strike led by PATCO – the Professional Air Traffic Controller’s Union. Unlike steel factories and auto plants, our music clubs didn’t move to Mexico or China, but musicians faced working conditions that were sub-standard and non-union.

Musicians barely scrape by

Jazz is still being played today in San Francisco for audiences in bars, restaurants, and coffee houses. But instead of getting paid union scale, musicians have to beg with tip jars. You’re lucky today to get a free sandwich or an occasional meal and a beer.

It’s not unusual for good jazz musicians to leave a gig with $40 or $60 in their pocket – and on an exceptional night, it might be $100 bucks. The Musician’s Union is still maintaining good contracts at large city symphonies and opera houses, but most of the smaller clubs and venues no longer have union contracts. Even the famed S.F. Jazz Center in San Francisco is not yet a union house – despite spending $41 million on a new building and raising an impressive annual budget from many large and small donors.

New tech benefits big biz

Another difference today is the way new technology is impacting the music industry. We have the ability to share our music and interact with loyal fans through live-streaming, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and other social media platforms. We also have to contend with apps like Spotify that give away our music for free to the public with little or no compensation for musicians. Just like the rest of society, big corporations and Wall Street seem to be the ones who profit most from new technology.

Cool union project

One of the real bright spots that I’m excited about is an organization called “Jazz in the Neighborhood.” This group is lining-up local venues who promise to pay fair wages for musicians who perform there. The organization also raises funds to help underwrite those venues and ensure musicians will be paid fairly. It’s important to note that this project is endorsed and supported by the Musicians Union, because they recognize how important it is to help the larger group of unorganized musicians who extend beyond the narrow ranks of union members in the symphony and opera.

Fisher is now a veteran jazz drummer with five decades of performing under his belt. Flexible work on the docks allowed him and other artists to pursue multiple careers.

Jazz in the Neighborhood

In the Bay Area, you can support “fair wages for musicians” by patronizing clubs such as Bird and Becket in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights, the Marin Outdoor Market, and Boutiki in San Jose. The Jazz School in Berkeley also has performances that pay fair wages by cooperating with “Jazz in the Neighborhood.” Check out their website and go out to see some live music in your neighborhood that also provides fair wages to the performers.

Health care & pensions for all

Over the years, I can’t tell you how many fundraising concerts I’ve attended or performed at to help great jazz musicians who are facing serious illnesses and crushing medical bills without any health insurance. As an ILWU Longshore Division pensioner, I share the same medical benefits that the active ILWU members do, and give thanks every day for the rank-and-file struggles and sacrifices that made it possible. I’m also proud to belong to a union that believes everyone in America– the richest nation in the history of the world – has a right to good health care and a decent retirement.

Groovin’ high

Because I belonged to two unions, I sometimes joked that “my pocketbook was in Local 34, and my heart was in Musicians’ Local 6.” Now, more than ever, I appreciate how the ILWU made it possible for me to continue my lifelong passion for music. So next time you see me playing on the bandstand with my fellow musicians, you’ll know why I’m smiling when we hit a heavy groove.

Categories: Unions

ILWU honorary member Paul Robeson memorialized at Rutgers University

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 11:26

New friends: Kendall Hall is head of the Rutgers African American Alumni Alliance.
She contacted the ILWU to support the initiative. The ILWU contributed to the
Paul Robeson Plaza memorial and International President Willie Adams sent Local
10 Pensioner Lawrence Thibeaux to attend the dedication. “I’m so grateful for the
chance to meet Lawrence and learn more about the ILWU,” she says.

One hundred years ago, a remarkable young man graduated from Rutgers University in the spring of 1919. At the time, Paul Leroy Robeson was only the third African-American allowed to enroll in the New Jersey campus during its 150-year existence. Robeson entered with an academic scholarship and left the university as class valedictorian. He went on to become one of America’s most celebrated and controversial public figures of the 20th Century.

Man of many gifts

Robeson achieved extraordinary success as a scholar. He was fluent in Greek and Latin, and had a command of classic literature. He was a two-time All-American athlete and gifted operatic and popular singer. He graduated from Columbia University Law School while simultaneously playing for the NFL. He astonished audiences with his knowledge of 20 languages and was a gifted Shakespearean actor. A devoted social activist, he was also an honorary lifetime member of the ILWU.

Despite all these and other astounding accomplishments, Robeson died in relative obscurity – due to the color of his skin and his unwavering devotion to unions, the working class and dreams of a more just society – causes that made him a target for vicious attacks during most of his life.

Honors & praise

A century after graduating, Robeson’s accomplishments and struggles were finally honored on April 12, 2019, with the dedication of “Paul Robeson Plaza” at the Rutgers University campus in New Brunswick, NJ. The ILWU joined other organizations and individuals who donated funds for the project that features panels of black granite, etched with descriptions of Robeson’s achievements – along with details of the many barriers that he encountered.

“We want a new generation of young people to understand this great man who was unfairly pushed to the margins of history,” said ILWU Local 10 Pensioner Lawrence Thibeaux, the ILWU’s official representative who attended the dedication at the request of International President Willie Adams.

“Paul Robeson is among the greatest of the hundreds of thousands of Rutgers alumni – simply one of the greatest,” said Rutgers President Robert Barchi, who added that the University is now undertaking a painful but necessary examination of the many ways that centuries of racism have impacted New Jersey’s leading public university. Robeson’s granddaughter, Susan, also spoke at the dedication, noting that her grandfather surprised many by becoming more passionate about unions, social justice, and civil rights as he grew more famous, wealthy and accomplished as a singer and actor.

New generation steps-up

Seven-year-old Kristopher Dabrowski from Woodbridge, NJ views Paul Robeson Plaza on Voorhees Mall.

Perhaps the most important attendees were Rutgers students from the class of 1971, along with members of the Rutgers African-American Alumni Alliance. The groups pushed hard for the Robeson memorial, overcoming occasional resistance, and raising money for the effort. Former student leader Jim Savage, who Chairs the Class of 1971 Paul Robeson Milestone Project, played a key role, as did former student Claude White, who serves as the 1971 Class President.

“We hope Robeson Plaza will inspire future generations to take a stand against all forms of injustice,” said Savage, who is credited with conceiving the memorial and involving others to join the effort.

The power of Robeson’s legacy to inspire new generations was confirmed earlier this year when Black Lives Matter co-founder Opal Tometi told a Rutgers audience that today’s civil rights movement wouldn’t be possible without Paul Robeson and Martin Luther King Jr. “Robeson is so important because he paved the way for us to have a global perspective on our movements,” she said.

The man and his times

Robeson’s mother, Maria, was blind and died in a house fire when he was six-years-old. His father, William, was born a slave in 1845 and escaped from a plantation as a teenager. Armed with a fierce hunger for knowledge, the father secured two advanced degrees after the Civil War, studied and mastered ancient Greek and Latin, plus classical literature and philosophy – knowledge that he shared with his five children, including Paul, who was born in 1898.

Revolution and repression

When Robeson graduated from Rutgers in 1919, the world had just been turned-upside by the Russian Revolution in 1917 and First World War that ended the following year. The overthrow of an aristocratic regime by a new working class inspired Robeson and many Americans – along with millions around the world – to embrace the promise of a democratic state run by and for workers that would end racism, hunger, and war. The Russian Revolution also fueled a bitter backlash by conservatives and anti-union business leaders who feared something similar could spread to America. They launched a vicious crackdown on unions, civil rights leaders and socialists. The FBI’s J.Edgar Hoover rose quickly through the rank while attacking “the red menace.” During the same time, membership in the Ku Klux Klan exploded, along with lynchings and other horrors that the organization promoted.

Bridges and Robeson

Robeson recognized: ILWU International Union President Harry Bridges presented an honorary ILWU membership to Paul Roberson in 1944, recognizing his service to humanity and the working class.

Across the globe in Australia, the Russian Revolution inspired Harry Bridges who was just 16 in 1917. He left home that year to work at sea before entering America in 1920. Both men lived their entire lives believing that the Soviet Union was a beacon of hope for workers – and both paid heavily for their views during the Cold War. Bridges and Robeson were charged separately with being Communists, which was a crime until courts overturned the laws decades later. Bridges overcame three decades of government efforts to jail and deport him. Robeson was “blacklisted” from working on film, radio, television or theaters. His recordings were removed from store shelves and movies weren’t shown. The government revoked his passport and banned him from traveling abroad. When his travel ban was finally lifted, the FBI and State Department orchestrated a smear campaign to ruin his reputation at home and abroad.

Honored by the ILWU

In 1943, Harry Bridges led International Convention delegates and Executive Board members to unanimously grant Robeson a lifetime honorary ILWU membership for his “steadfast devotion and service to the cause of democracy and to the economic and cultural advancement of all peoples.”

Robeson was especially honored for his support of sugar cane workers in Hawaii who were organizing and joining the ILWU to improve conditions. Another ILWU honorary membership was granted at the same time to the famous artist and activist Rockwell Kent, who illustrated the first issue of The Dispatcher, in December 1942, and remained an ILWU supporter his entire life. Like Robeson, Kent was also persecuted by the government for his political views and had his foreign travel rights revoked. Kent later won a 1958 case before the Supreme Court that overturned the travel bans.

Persecution takes a toll

Decades of persecution, beginning before WWII, took a heavy toll on Robeson. In 1961 he attempted suicide by cutting his wrists while traveling abroad. His recovery took several months and was plagued by severe depression that was treated in Europe with heavy drugs and electroconvulsive “shock” therapy. He returned to the U.S. in 1963 where he lived in seclusion. He briefly considered joining the Civil Rights movement but refused because it would have required him to renounce his political support for the Soviet Union. A Carnegie Hall tribute was held on his 75th birthday that he was unable to attend, sending a taped message instead: “I want you to know that I am the same Paul, dedicated as ever to the worldwide causes of humanity for freedom, peace, and brotherhood.” He died in 1976.

“Everyone here knows that Robeson was a ‘renaissance man’ in the truest sense of the word,” said Lawrence Thibeaux. “He is remembered for many things, but we in the ILWU remember him for his elegant outspokenness on the rights of working people. Robeson may have achieved fame on many fronts, but for us, he is most famous for being a Union Brother.”

Categories: Unions

Workers win organizing victory at Pier 80 in San Francisco

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 10:34

Proof in hand: Austin Vann, who
works at Pier 80 in San Francisco, holds
the official NLRB document showing
a majority of co-workers voted to join
the ILWU.

Workers who prepare and process Tesla vehicles on San Francisco’s Pier 80 for shipment to Asia voted to join the ILWU in an election held on May 29 and certified by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in June.
The effort dates back to a more ambitious plan envisioned by terminal operator Pasha in 2016, when
Ford planned to import Mexican-built cars for sale to the U.S. – an effort that would have employed
80-100 workers. Poor vehicle sales killed the project after just a few deliveries.

That left Tesla as the remaining customer with enough business to employ 16 workers, including Austin
Vann, who served as an election observer for his new union. Workers have elected Vann and Henry Ormeno to serve on the Bargaining Committee, and they will now prepare for negotiating their first contract.

An effort by the Teamsters union to represent the same group of workers fell short when the votes were counted, as did an earlier effort by Teamster officials who arranged for Pasha workers from San Diego to
pose as San Francisco employees. The Teamsters backed-down from that strategy after the ILWU filed charges with the NLRB.

Categories: Unions

ILWU Canada longshore workers reach tentative contract agreement

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 09:55

Tentative Agreement: ILWU Canada longshore workers reached a tentative agreement with the British Columbia Maritime Employers’ Association after a brief lockout on May 30. The agreement will be now be sent to the ILWU Canada longshore locals for discussion and a ratification vote.

Eighteen months of difficult negotiations concluded on May 30 with a tentative agreement between ILWU Canada longshore workers and the British Columbia Maritime Employers’ Association (BCMEA).

The proposed contract covers almost 7,000 dockworkers employed at Vancouver, Prince Rupert and other ports.

The settlement followed an all-night negotiating session and early morning employer lockout that was imposed by the BCMEA. Employers closed the nation’s west coast ports for the day shift, but operations resumed that night. ILWU picket lines lasted between five minutes to three hours, depending on the location.

“Reaching this agreement required discipline and unity from the membership, and they delivered on both,” said ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton, who also thanked the Negotiating Committee for their hard work and determination.

Details of the agreement won’t be released until a ratification vote later this month, but Ashton said the package included what he described as, “fair language in the collective bargaining agreement around automation.” Ashton thanked the ILWU International and International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) for their expressions of solidarity, along with support from a range of Canadian unions.

As The Dispatcher was going to press, “stop-work” membership meetings were being organized atLongshore locals to discuss the tentative agreement and answer questions prior to the ratification vote that will be announced by the end of June.

Categories: Unions

Alan Michael Coté: former President of the Inlandboatmen’s Union

Wed, 06/05/2019 - 16:39

More than 100 union members, community leaders, friends and family came from as far as Hawaii, Alaska and Australia to Seattle’s Labor Temple on the evening of May 18 where they remembered and honored their departed brother, Alan Michael Coté, who led the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific for 12 years from 2005-2017.

The memorial opened with a moving prayer by Father Joseph Peters- Matthews of Seattle’s Seafarer Center, a project that provides domestic and international seafarers with support and solidarity. It was followed by heartfelt eulogy delivered by IBU Secretary-Treasurer Terri Mast, who worked closely with Coté. She fought back tears while sharing details of his life and efforts to lead the union through turbulent times.

Coté was born in 1957 in Renton, WA, 10 miles south of Seattle, where he was raised by parents Benjamin and Frances, along with his deceased sister Diane and older brother Steve – who attended the memorial with his wife, Carol. Steve told a story that won smiles and laughter when he explained how Alan’s notoriously poor eyesight was discovered long ago when his younger brother became briefly lost in the woods during a family camping trip – a condition remedied with eyeglasses and thick lenses that Coté wore for the rest of his life.

By all accounts, Coté was a curious and intelligent student with a gift for storytelling and negotiating. He once bargained a $5-dollar-a-week payment plan with a judge for a traffic ticket he received while hot-rodding when he was only 16-years old. Coté used his daily lunch money to quietly conceal the mischief from his parents. In college, he formed a network of close friends who remained in touch for the next 44 years. He met his wife Linda in high school, later reconnecting with her when she worked at one of Alan’s favorite restaurants. She invited him on a group camping trip where she was won over by his excellent cooking and quick wit. They married in 1993 and enjoyed 26 years together.

Alan worked as a personal chef on a yacht for several years before taking a job with Crowley Maritime in 1989 where he combined his love of cooking with maritime work. He quickly became active in the union and won support from co-workers who elected him to be a shop steward, then Bargaining Committee member in 1997. Two years later he was elected as a Towboat Patrolman for the Puget Sound.

In 2005, Coté, was elected President of the IBU where he served for 12 years. His leadership qualities, according to Terri Mast, included good listening skills and an ability to encourage talent in others – while allowing them room to operate with their own style – offering backup and support when needed.

“He was a man of his word and was trusted by both the membership and employers,” said Mast. “He was a good negotiator and bargained some of our best contracts.”Respect from both sides was confirmed by Lee Egland, head of Labor Relation for Crowley Maritime on the West Coast, who previously worked on tugs and towboats as an IBU member.

“Alan was firm but fair,” said Egland, who added that Coté would sometimes torture him with long lectures about meat cuts and other odd topics if it seemed the company wasn’t

responding to worker concerns during contract negotiations.

A spirited and uplifting musical interlude was provided by members of the Seattle Labor Chorus, including IBU member Sue Moser. Fellow IBU leader Jeff Engels, now West Coast Coordinator for the International Transport Workers Federation, recalled how he and Coté learned painful but important lessons from a long and bitter strike that the IBU waged against Crowley in 1987 – highlighting the need to organize growing numbers of non-union workers in the tug and tow industry.

“I ran for IBU President in 1999 and lost, then Alan won a few years later in 2005,” said Engels. “I didn’t mind Alan jumping ahead because we’re supposed to promote and encourage new leaders with talent – not hold them back.”

ILWU International President Willie Adams spoke briefly, but powerfully, at the memorial.

“I’m not here tonight as your President, but as a friend and union brother,” he said. “I first met Alan in 2005, and we saw each other regularly at meetings of the International Executive Board and other union events. Like many of you, I was glad to see him at the IBU’s 100th Anniversary celebration last November, here in Seattle, which was the last time that some of us saw him.”

“He died too soon, but made the most of his time here with us,” said Adams, who praised his leadership skills. “Thank you for sharing Alan with us – he made the labor movement, and our union, much better,” Coté made connections when he traveled and worked with other unions, often turning these encounters into political alliances and working groups. That’s what happened when he visited Australia and helped establish a sister-port relationship between Seattle and Sydney. Later he helped establish a Towboat and Tugboat Conference that brought together unions from different countries with common problems and employers.

A recorded video message from Paul Garrett, Assistant Secretary at the Maritime Union of Australia in Sydney, was played at the memorial. Garrett conveyed condolences on behalf of MUA members along with his personal gratitude for the opportunity to work with Coté, whom he described as a “great mate.”

Rob Patterson, Honorary Deputy Branch Secretary from the MUA in Sydney, appeared at the memorial in-person, saying, “when the news of Alan’s death arrived, it was a very somber day.

He always told us that he didn’t consider his work for the IBU to be a job, but an honor, to serve the membership.”

At home in the Puget Sound, Coté built similar coalitions at the local level, serving as President and Secretary-Treasurer of the King County Maritime Trades. In doing this work, he was honest about the challenge – while committed to the goal of building greater unity, no matter how frustrating the process could become.

Don Marcus, President of the Masters, Mates and Pilots Union, attended the memorial where he praised Coté’s effort to build unity under difficult circumstances.

He and Coté were instrumental in forming the Maritime Labor Alliance that provides a way for the ILWU and IBU to coordinate with other unions.

“Maritime Labor has lost a good friend and man of vision, intelligence and insight,” said Marcus who noted that Alan was frank and refreshingly down-to-earth.

“He was at home in a tugboat galley or the halls of Congress, where he always wore a plaid flannel shirt and didn’t hesitate to speak his mind to members of Congress.”

Coté’s willingness to speak honestly about problems was also evident at meetings of the ILWU International Executive Board, where he served from 2006-2017. His reports and comments were refreshingly frank and he willingly shared difficult decisions facing the IBU for which there were no easy answers.

ILWU Canada’s Local 400 Secretary-Treasurer Jason Woods said his union and the IBU have shared some similar history, employers and struggles over the years. He noted that Local 400 is mentioned in the IBU Constitution because of their similarities and solidarity, and felt fortunate to have shared many meaningful conversations and meetings with Coté.

The loss of Cote’s wife, Linda, who died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2018, was a devastating blow that left him heartbroken, and his adjustment to a new life after serving in the union so long, seemed difficult.

A favorite project of Coté’s was the Tongue Point Maritime Academy in Astoria Oregon, where young people – often from challenging backgrounds – receive expert, practical training to secure good jobs in the maritime industry. Seamanship Instructor Mike Sasso explained how Alan sometimes talked about teaching a cooking class one day at the Academy. One project that is being realized is the Academy’s construction of a 1/35th scale model tug and barge – large enough to teach students the dynamics of tug and tow vessel operations. Sasso said the new vessel will be named the “Alan Coté.”

IBU poet Jay Ubelhart from the Puget Sound Region help bring the ceremony to a close by reading a beautiful poem that he composed in Alan’s memory. Final honors of the evening were provided by IBU Regional Director Peter Hart, who invited everyone present to toast Coté’s passing by honoring his spirit of solidarity and devotion to the trade union movement, as 100 voices came together in unison, with the words: “Long live Alan Coté.”

The following morning, a smaller group of several dozen IBU members, friends and Coté’s family, gathered on a Washington State ferry that departed for Bainbridge Island. After crossing Elliott Bay, the vessel slowed and engines were idled, as the group on the rear deck placed flowers, wreaths and Coté’s ashes into the placid blue water of the Puget Sound that he loved so much, “Goodbye Alan,” said his brother Steve, releasing the heavy steel ecological container of ashes that quickly plunged beneath the waves as a Crowley tugboat “danced” in circles and sounded its horn to honor the departed mariner and union brother, Alan Michael Coté.

Categories: Unions

Oversight, transparency, and accountability are priorities at Secretary-Treasurers conference

Wed, 06/05/2019 - 12:03

Practical lessons: Maddie King (left) and Jared Hueholt from Local 5 worked on a mock audit of a hypothetical union local. Participants applied the lessons they learned throughout the week in this group exercise.

A record 83 ILWU members, officers, and staff who oversee local finances attended the Secretary-Treasurers Conference in Seattle on May 19-24. The five-day training used a combination of interactive exercises and presentations from experts to help participants understand their legal and ethical responsibility to protect membership dues dollars. Topics included best practices for record-keeping, transparency, proper oversight, and democratic accountability.

Special guests at the conference included ILWU International President Willie Adams, ILWU International Vice President (Mainland) Bobby Olvera, Jr., ILWU International Vice President (Hawaii) Wesley Furtado, ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris, Coast Committeeman Cam Williams, ILWU Canada’s Second Vice President Dan Kask, ILWU Canada’s Secretary-Treasurer Bob Dhaliwal, and ILWU President Emeritus Bob McEllrath.

Welcome from President Adams

Transparency is key: “Our responsibility to the membership is to be transparent,” said ILWU International President Willie Adams in his welcoming remarks.

President Willie Adams and Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris welcomed participants to the event that began on Sunday evening. Adams thanked everyone for coming to the training and for their dedication and commitment to the ILWU.

“This week you have an opportunity to learn, become engaged and take this information back to your locals,” Adams said. “The power of this organization doesn’t sit at the top of this organization – it is right here in this room.”

Adams spoke briefly about the many challenges facing the union with attacks by the employers in the courts and at the bargaining table.

“In our 88 years, we’ve been sued a lot, but always stayed focused on our work to represent members. We cannot live in fear. We have to take these challenges head-on,” he said. Ed Ferris said he attended the last Secretary-Treasurers Conference in 2013. “I sat in this same room, just like you are today. I left that training with a feeling of empowerment, and

that’s what I hope you leave with.

The goal of this conference is to go back to our locals with new skills to better serve them,” he said.

Going paperless

Team work: Local 10 Secretary-Treasurer Farless Dailey (left) with Local 10 staff member Julie Chandler worked together on one of the group exercises.

During the conference, each participant was loaned an electronic tablet that provided access to all documents, presentations and other materials used during the week. The digital format saved time and money by avoiding the expense of shipping heavy documents, renting copiers and purchasing reams of paper

Oversight and transparency are key

Training sessions focused on the importance of open and transparent financial practices, so members can see that their dues money is being fully accounted for and properly spent.

This requires proper bookkeeping practices, documentation of expenditures along with constant oversight by Trustees who are elected by the membership. Locals were also encouraged to conduct periodic, independent audits by outside firms to verify that local finances are in order. The ILWU’s International financial records are audited each quarter – an exceptional level of oversight that is far more frequent than most organizations.

Local 4 member Lamar Stewart

Local 5 Secretary-Treasurer Ryan Takas said it was essential to have a ‘culture of paranoia’ with multiple people overseeing the books and redundant systems of checks and balances.

“It may seem inefficient to some,” he said, “but our goal is not efficiency – it’s the safeguarding of union funds.”

IBU Secretary-Treasurer Terri Mast was a veteran presenter at the conference. “I think the Secretary-Treasurer is the most important position in the union, she said. “Our responsibility is to make sure that we have proper controls in place to protect the members’ money.”

Hard lessons

The ILWU has a strong record in protecting member’s dues money from fraud and abuse. However, a few isolated instances have occurred, like in all organizations, where an individual tried to steal funds from local union members. Those illegal actions were eventually discovered and the individuals responsible were prosecuted, with funds recovered through restitution.

Instead of ignoring such instances or sweeping them under the rug, these rare examples were used as case studies to help guard against future abuse. Group discussions focused on shortcomings that enabled fraud to initially go unchecked until it was exposed.

Presenters reviewed new practices that have been put in place to tighten oversight of union finances. The conference also covered democratic safeguards, including the proper conduct of local union elections, laws regulating the use political action funds, obligations unions face as employers, bonding requirements for staff and officers who handle union funds, and proper management of current and archival union records.

Time out for solidarity

Touch one, touch all: ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris spoke at a solidarity rally with UNITE-HERE Local 8 members. Ferris strongly encouraged management to negotiate a fair contract with the workers at the Edgewater Hotel.

On Wednesday afternoon, the conference broke early so participants could march in solidarity with staff at the Edgewater Hotel, where the event was held. The hotel workers belong to UNITE-HERE Local 8 and are facing difficult negotiations to renew their contract. Workers want better wages to keep pace with rising costs in Seattle, lowering the threshold to qualify for healthcare benefits, and winning successor language to protect their contract if the hotel is sold. ILWU members joined a rally and informational picket outside the hotel.

Ed Ferris spoke at the event. “One of the reasons that the ILWU chose to hold our conference at the Edgewater Hotel is because of the excellent service provided by Local 8 members. Management should do the right thing and negotiate a fair contract with you,” he said. “Workers shouldn’t have to work two or three jobs just to survive.”

Willie Adams said that the officers would be expressing their concerns about the contract situation with the hotel management.

Valuable experiences

As the training session concluded, participants had a chance to reflect on what they had learned.

“The experience has been valuable to me,” said Local 51 Dispatcher/Secretary-Treasurer Don Lund. “Our previous Secretary-Treasurer was in the position for over twenty years. Even though I know what and how to do it, the conference has helped me understand why it’s important.”

Lund said his most significant takeaway from the conference was the importance of transparency. “Even though you know the books are right, it’s important that the membership knows that there’s nothing to hide and that their money is being properly spent and accounted for.”

Melanie Watts, Secretary-Treasurer for Local 142, Unit 4202, said she appreciated getting to meet and learn from ILWU members in every region and division with such diverse experiences. “We learned a lot of practical information and best practices to take back home and implement in our locals,” she said.

Commitment to education

President Adams said that the International 0fficers are committed to membership education and plan on having more frequent Secretary-Treasurers conferences. “Once every six years is not enough,” said Adams. “We should be having one of these every 2 to 3 years. Education is a priority for this administration. It’s about empowering the rank-and-file and growing the next generation of ILWU leaders.”

Categories: Unions

Alaska ferry workers continue fight for Marine Highway System

Wed, 05/15/2019 - 16:09

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

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

Talking with legislators

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

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

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

Contract effort continues

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

Meeting with a DOT official

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

Hiring an expert to help

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

Meeting with Lt. Governor

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

Members & community involved

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

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

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

Next battle in the State Senate

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

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

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

Robb Arnold, Vice chair

IBU Alaska Region Executive Board

Categories: Unions

President’s message

Wed, 05/15/2019 - 10:42

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

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

Global grain giants

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

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

Automation that’s killing good jobs

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

Privatizing to destroy public service

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

Union-busting continues

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

Courts & federal agencies

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

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

Different problems, same solution

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

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

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

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

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

Open door for your ideas

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

Categories: Unions

Longshore Caucus delegates meet in SF

Sat, 05/04/2019 - 12:25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Unions

Save the Port of Oakland May Day Rally (Video)

Fri, 05/03/2019 - 11:55

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

Categories: Unions

ILWU Canada Young Workers’ Conference

Fri, 04/19/2019 - 12:50

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Categories: Unions

Anchor Steam workers vote overwhelmingly to join ILWU

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 11:00

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

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

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

Iconic San Francisco brand

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

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

Inexperienced but well prepared

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

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

Deteriorating wages and conditions

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

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

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

Dramatic rollout

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

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

Union busting campaign

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

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

Initial vote postponed

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


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

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

Positive campaign

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

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

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

Building relationships

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

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

Political allies

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

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

Contract campaign ahead

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

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

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

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


Categories: Unions

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

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 12:24

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

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

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

Essential service

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

Big numbers

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

Keeping Alaska connected

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

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

Broken promises

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

Slippery mix of oil and politics

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

Annual oil checks

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

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

Governor’s solution: deep cuts

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

A convenient crisis

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

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

Save the System

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

Organizing the campaign

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

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

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

Focus on legislators

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

Mobilization time

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

Bellingham’s Port Commission

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

Positive media coverage

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

Attending budget hearings

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

Governor’s Response

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

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

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

Presence at the Capitol

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

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

Wild card of privatization

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

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

Categories: Unions

Newest automation plan hits a nerve with LA Port communities

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 11:34

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

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

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

Automation at APM/Maersk

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

Massive community response

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

Port Commission hearing

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

Strong union support

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

Political leaders weigh-in

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

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

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

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

Mayor could play a role

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

Commissioners weigh-in

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

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

Surprising study finding

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

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

Concluding arguments

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

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

Voting for more time

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

Categories: Unions

Anchor workers organize at craft brewery

Tue, 03/12/2019 - 15:47

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Unions