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International Longshore and Warehouse Union
Updated: 7 hours 21 min ago

Letter from President Adams to Minnesota Governor Walz on the murder of George Floyd

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 13:01

May 29, 2020
Governor Tim Walz
Office of the Governor
130 State Capitol
75 Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155

Governor Walz,

On behalf of the membership of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), I am writing to demand that the Minneapolis Police Officers who brutally arrested and killed George Floyd be charged and tried for his murder.

With a heavy heart, the whole world watched as George Floyd begged for his life. Mr. Floyd was killed at the hands of an officer with a dozen complaints against him as the other officers sat and watched. Tragedy has turned into rage. The officers must be arrested and held accountable for their actions.

We demand justice. We demand justice for George Floyd and his family. We demand justice for all persons of color that are subjected to police brutality on a daily basis. We demand justice for every person of color who lives in fear of losing his or her life at the hands of brutal, racist, oppressive, and intolerant police officers who believe they are above the law. We demand justice for those who are persecuted and oppressed based on the color of their skin.

We the ILWU are a union that has a rich history of fighting for racial and social justice. We cannot sit back and watch the same scene unfold time and again. We will not sit back and not fight for change.

Now is the time for you to act and bring justice for George Floyd.

Murder is murder.


William E. Adams
International President

WEA/akj cwa 39521

cc: Keith Ellison, Attorney General, State of Minnesota
Jacob Frey, Mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota
Medaria Arradondo, Chief of Minneapolis Police Department

PDF of the letter is available here 


Categories: Unions

Solidarity helps seafarers on cruise ships

Thu, 05/14/2020 - 15:13

Speaking out: Local 10 President Trent Willis (center) and Local 34 President Keith Shanklin (left) rallied with members and community leaders on March 20 at the Port of Oakland. The group called on employer SSA to sanitize equipment and facilities, including the terminal where the Grand Princess had docked before heading to Hunters Point in San Francisco. Other speakers included Bishop Bob Jackson of the Acts Full Gospel Church in West Oakland and Local 10 Business Agent John Hughes. Locals 75 and 91 also supported the call for protecting workers and the community from COVID-19. “It is imperative for us as workers, as well as the public, that the equipment we work with every day, be sanitized to prevent the spread of Coronavirus,” said Shanklin, who noted that other employers at the Port had complied with Safety Code requirements – except SSA.

The cruise ship industry gained notoriety early this year after several Princess vessels became high-profile hotspots for COVID-19 outbreaks, spreading the virus to hundreds of passengers. The cruise industry operates 272 vessels worldwide that host 300 million customers a year. While companies initially responded to the outbreaks with an eye toward protecting their public image and profits, treatment of crewmembers before and after the virus struck seemed to be a lower priority.

The cruise industry depends on massive numbers of low-wage workers to care for guests and operate the giant vessels. Typical crew sizes range from 25% to 50% of the total guests, with ratios of one crew member for every three customers being common.

Longstanding abuses

Crewmembers on cruise and cargo vessels have long struggled against low pay, abusive management and dangerous working conditions. Vessel owners perpetuate this abuse by exploiting a loophole in maritime law, allowing ships to register in countries that provide little or no enforcement of labor, environmental and tax laws.

Most large vessels, whether carrying passengers or cargo, now fly a “flag of convenience” which allows them to carry passengers from wealthy nations while bypassing stronger labor, environmental and tax laws.

COVID-19 flourishes under FOCs

Flying a flag of convenience (FOC) has made responding to the COVID-19 outbreaks more difficult for passengers and crewmembers. When the virus outbreaks occurred, vessels were far from the countries where they were registered, and those countries had neither the funding or infrastructure to offer any meaningful medical, public health and scientific assistance. That left responsibility to states, nations and nongovernmental organizations (NGO’s) to respond as best they could while epidemics raged aboard the giant vessels.

The national governments of passengers and crew members were called to help, with some offering sympathy and support, while others turned their backs on both citizens and workers.

Tale of two vessels

The experience of two different Princess vessels illustrates how the FOC system allows seafarers from around the world to be exploited. In February, the Diamond Princess attempted to quarantine at the Port of Yokohama in Japan, following a COVID-19 outbreak. Japanese officials were limited in their ability to intervene because the ship was registered in Bermuda and subject to that nation’s laws, not Japan’s.

COVID-19 strikes second Princess

A few weeks later, a different vessel, the Grand Princess, was sailing in circles off Northern California. They needed to dock at a nearby port because COVID-19 was spreading among passengers and crewmembers. After high-level consultations with California Governor Gavin Newsom and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, the Grand Princess was allowed to dock in Oakland on March 9th. Two passengers and 19 crew had tested positive for the virus, confirmed by test kits that were delivered and recovered from the vessel via helicopter while the ship circled off the coast. Once again, efforts to enforce federal and state health and safety standards were limited because the ship was registered in Bermuda. That complication didn’t stop local community groups and longshore leaders from voicing concerns at rallies and sharing those concerns with reporters.

Protecting workers & community

Local 10 President Trent Willis joined with Local 34 President Keith Shanklin, Local 75 Secretary Ryan Murphy and Local 91 President Billy Keypoo to express concern for the safety of seafarers – and ensure that refuse offloaded from the Grand Princess was properly handled to protect longshore workers and the community from COVID-19-contamination. The team of union leaders began coordinating their efforts before the cruise ship arrived, using their Joint Port Labor Relations Committee as a forum to raise concerns with employers. Local officers sought and received support from the ILWU Coast Committee and International Officers, including President Willie Adams.

“It wasn’t easy, we had to make them do everything,” said Trent Willis, “and that includes making them follow the grievance procedures,” he added.

ITF Inspectors involved

As events were unfolding in Northern California, longtime ILWU member Sam Levens was completing a training in London, England, as the Bay Area’s new International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) Inspector. West Coast ITF Coordinator Jeff Engels from Seattle temporarily filled-in during the brief absence, coordinating events on the ground in Oakland until Levens returned. Engles kept in touch with local activists, the union in Italy (FITCISL) that represented workers on the Grand Princess, U.S. Coast Guard officials and Princess Cruise Lines representatives.

He also consulted with ITF leaders in London and with the ILWU International Officers. Levens returned and quickly hit the ground running as the area’s newly-trained ITF Inspector.

Advocating for work

Levens worked hard to advocate for crewmembers under trying circumstances – made more difficult because the vessel is registered in Bermuda under a flag of convenience. No representative from Bermuda helped with the lengthy and sometimes difficult negotiations needed to protect the health and safety of crewmembers, longshore and transportation workers, passengers and residents of Oakland. Another complication involved crewmembers’ desire to return to their homes in China, the Philippines and other nations – but some countries were reluctant to repatriate their own citizens because they had been exposed to COVID-19 while working on cruise ships.

President Willie Adams used his experience and connections as a longtime San Francisco Port Commissioner to assist Levens and Engels in their efforts to protect workers and the community.

Cruise ship flotilla

On April 8, the Grand Princess left the Bay Area and sailed for Southern California where she anchored with roughly a dozen other cruise ships, seeking to enter the Port of Los Angeles on April 23. Meanwhile, her sister vessel, the Royal Princess, sailed from Southern California on April 18, filled with seafarers bound for the Philippines, then Indonesia and India – bringing workers home who were unable to secure passage on a charter flight. Princess officials have told Bay Area longshore leaders that they have now sanitized the Princess Grand and intend to shuttle her between LA and Oakland every 7-10 days, using a skeleton crew to keep the engines and systems operational.

Passengers gone, problems persist

Cruise ships around the world are in the final stages of unloading all their remaining passengers, a process that should be finished by the end of April. Then comes the work to assure seafarers will not languish before being repatriated to their homes. Time is running out for some seafarers with personal contracts that expire soon.

Non-essential crewmembers are only entitled to room and board – without pay – until they can get home. Cruise Lines are also imposing industry-wide pay cuts for crewmembers who remain on duty, beginning in May. Companies are screaming poverty after decades of healthy profits, made easier by exploiting crewmembers and avoiding taxes – thanks to their flags of convenience.

Seeking taxpayer subsidies

Registering with foreign flags to dodge labor laws and avoid paying taxes hasn’t stopped the world’s largest cruise line from seeking a massive bailout from U.S. taxpayers. Carnival, the massive parent company for Princess Lines, Holland America, Cunard, Seaborn, Costa and other lines, is seeking a public bailout for their foreign-flagged fleet. Jeff Engels predicts that we should “expect to hear lobbyists and their friends in Congress crying about the need to ‘protect jobs’ for a company that spent decades refusing to pay living wages, sign decent contracts or pay their fair share of taxes.”

“The industry’s effort has failed so far,” says Engels, “but we’ll need to be vigilant to see that they don’t cut a deal with the current administration.”

More than cruise ships

Problems for seafarers aren’t confined to cruise ships. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic depression have hammered the cargo industry – causing some crew to be stranded and abandoned on vessels around the world. Many companies have instituted temporary freezes on crew changes or limited them to emergencies.

The ITF and its maritime affiliates – including the ILWU – are pressing the International Maritime Organization and other bodies to see that seafarers and transport workers are treated fairly during the COVID-19 crisis – and in the future when it eases.

Fund to help workers

Seafarers were in a precarious situation long before the COVID-19 crisis struck early this year. Many workers are now stranded on ships at sea, and others are afraid to return home for fear of losing their jobs in the future.

To help, the ITF has set-up a $3 million emergency fund to assist seafarers abandoned, stranded or otherwise affected by this pandemic. Funds can be accessed through the ITF Inspectors or ITF affiliated unions. Repatriating crewmembers

As The Dispatcher was going to press, industry reports noted that some cruise ships, including a Princess vessel from the Port of Los Angeles, were being used to repatriate crewmembers to the Philippines and other ports in the Pacific.

Thanks to Jeff Engels, West Coast USA ITF Coordinator, and Bay Area Inspector Sam Levens for their contributions to this report.


Categories: Unions

President’s message

Thu, 05/14/2020 - 11:18

The year 2020 will be remembered as the Great Lockdown. The lengthy interruption of our lives will continue and so will the economic trauma. Consumer confidence may fail to improve and an economic reset will be essential for us to move forward. We have been waiting for a surge in shipping — work that has not happened and may not happen this year. Trade restrictions have not lifted.

Tourism is down. Ridership on ferries is down. Our members have been laid off and some of our members are being sent back to the hall. Work is down across the board and the unknown looms large. In the 40 years I have been a member of this great union, I have never seen a time when our members cannot have union meetings in person until now. All of this is due to a pandemic over which we have no control.

Our members are facing constant demands including new policies over the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitation protocols on the job. We continue the never-ending fight with employers to secure PPE, to put safety first, and to provide COVID-19-related sick leave for all. These safety measures should be a human right in order to maintain dignity on the job and in the hall.

We should not have to struggle for these basic protections; we should not have to fight, for example, for two weeks of paid sick leave when a longshore worker gets sick with COVID-19 while working to keep the ports open and supplies moving during a global pandemic. Similarly, testing should be available for all. In the weeks and months ahead, the ILWU officers, local officers, and the membership will need to have painful conversations about the kind of sacrifices required by all of us in order to protect our people, our union, and our communities.

One thing that we won’t need to debate is the heart of the ILWU, the resolve of our members, and the need for us to step into the void and demand more for workers. The COVID-19 pandemic has had an overwhelming impact on millions of people across the globe.

The United States has been especially hard hit as the country with the highest number of cases to date. People have fallen ill in staggering numbers and the number of people losing their lives continues to grow. State and local government officials along the West Coast have taken this seriously from the beginning.

As a result, we have been fortunate that the rate of infection is low in comparison to other areas. However, as the pandemic persists, we continue to see the devastating consequences in our families and communities.

In addition to the ongoing public health crisis, we have a jobs crisis with unemployment at an all-time high since the Great Depression. To date, we have suffered significant layoffs in Local 5, Local 6, Local 142, the IBU, and the Alaska Longshore Division. For the longshore locals, although work at the grain elevators is steady, shipping has slowed and many B men are not seeing work opportunities. In the smaller ports, work has all but dried up.

In spite of the tragedy from the COVID-19 pandemic, there are glimmers of hope in the midst of all the turmoil. A renewed sense of community in our neighborhoods as we shelter in place together. Recognition and gratitude to the frontline workers who are doing their job to keep us safe. Acts of kindness to those that are in need. People helping people.

Bay Area ILWU members and community allies have been donating resources to the laid-off workers from Tartine, who just voted to join Local 6. Young workers in Local 23 have been reaching out to pensioners to assist with things like grocery shopping and dropping off household items. Members from across the union are reaching out to assist others in ways large and small.

Our strength comes from our membership and local leadership and we cannot thank you enough for your dedication. Please let us know whatever actions our members and locals are taking to help out during this terrible pandemic. We all need to be engaged because our families and communities are at risk. Solidarity is important now and always, and we will continue to search for opportunities where we can play a positive role. I want to give a special thank you to International Vice President Bobby Olvera Jr., International Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris, Coast Committeemen

Cam Williams and Fran Ponce De Leon, and all the hard-working staff at the International and the Coast Longshore Division. Without them, this union would not continue to function and for that, we owe them all a debt of gratitude.

Moving forward, we must continue to maintain a first-class temperament as we face the new norm. May we always remember the 4th guiding principle of the ILWU and let it guide us during this season of life: “To help any worker in distress” must be a daily guide in the life of every trade union and its individual members.

An injury to one is an injury to all.

Categories: Unions

ILWU honors International Vice President (Hawaii) Wesley Furtado

Wed, 05/13/2020 - 14:33

ILWU International Vice President (Hawaii) Wesley Furtado passed away on March 15, 2020 at the age of 64. Wes rose from humble beginnings as a second-generation longshore worker in a working-class family who became a widely respected leader within the ILWU and the labor movement for his fierce commitment to unions, devotion to social justice and considerable organizing and negotiating skills.

ILWU International President Willie Adams recalled his longtime relationship with Furtado. “Wes was a labor warrior, and I had a great amount of respect for him and how he worked. He was mentored by Bobo Lapena and Tommy Trask—two powerful ILWU leaders with very different styles but who both got results,” Adams said. “Wes took the best of both their styles and created his own style. Like them, Wes was old school—he understood the importance of politics and he had a personality that put people at ease. Wes could get along in any situation and relate to every person he met. This gained him respect from the employers, ILWU members, and union brothers and sisters all over the world. Wes was a true internationalist.”

Early years

Wes was born on September 4, 1955 in Honolulu, Hawaii. He attended school in Kailua when it was still a small town just 12 miles from Honolulu, but a world apart because of its location on the other “windward” side of Oahu. During high school, he held a part-time job, stocking shelves in a local supermarket in the morning, then returned after school to bag groceries.

Plans to enter the trades

After graduating, Wes got a job at an air conditioning and refrigeration supply warehouse where he met workers in the trade and applied to an apprenticeship program run by the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union.

While waiting for his application to be approved, Wes’ father encouraged him to apply for work on the docks. He took his father’s advice and started working on the waterfront in 1978 at the age of 22.

Beginning on the waterfront

As his seniority and experience on the waterfront grew, Wes’ abilities were increasingly recognized by his peers. Co-workers elected him to serve as their Shop Steward, then Longshore Unit officer, and eventually a member of the Longshore Negotiating Committee.

Becoming an organizer

It was through helping non-union workers to organize that Wes began to distinguish himself. He started as a rank-and-file organizer in 1986. His first major assignment involved helping workers at a Kauai hotel to organize for better pay and working conditions.

That experience helped Wes find his calling in life, as he explained during an interview with ILWU Historian Harvey Schwartz in 2014.

“I found a passion to help people to stand up as equals to the employers,” Wes said, “To ask for what they deserve for the work they perform. That’s what drives me. When we organize a new house and negotiate over the table and look at the employer, we can tell them what we think we deserve. We deal as equals.”

International Representative

Local 142 President Donna Domingo knew Wes well because they both grew up together in Kailua. “I worked for Wesley’s mom when I was in high school and our family lived just up the street from them,” she recalls. They lost touch after graduating, then met fifteen years later in a surprising way.

In August 1989 Wes was appointed to serve as an International Representative by ILWU International President Jimmy Herman. In that new position, Wes kept on organizing, negotiated numerous difficult first contracts and oversaw challenging renewals. It’s also how Domingo met him again.

“I saw this guy who looked familiar at one of the big hotels on Maui where the ILWU was organizing,” said Domingo, “and it turned out to be Wesley, so we both ended up in the union movement together.”

“Even back then, I could see that Wesley had courage and the patience to understand organizing was a longterm commitment. He knew how to bring people together and he understood politics, so he used those skills to negotiate and finesse contracts that improved conditions for workers,” said Domingo.

Challenging & winning the VP race

In the year 2000, Wes decided to run against International Vice President (Hawaii) Leonard Hoshijo. Wes narrowly lost by 291 votes out of 11,000 cast. A controversy ensued with Wes challenging the results. His protest was rejected by the union’s International Election Procedures Committee, but upheld by the International Executive Board, which ordered a new election. Wes won the re-run by 850 votes – making him the new International Vice President for Hawaii.

ILWU President Emeritus Robert “Big Bob” McEllrath recalled his many years of friendship, comradery, and hard work with Wesley during his time as International Vice President (Hawaii). “The first time I remember meeting Wesley, he was an International Rep at one of the longshore caucuses in the 1990s. In 2000, Wesley and I both ran and were elected to the position of Vice President. At the time, (ILWU President Emeritus Jim Spinosa) Spinner would send me out to travel and I told him, ‘I’m taking Wesley with me.’ That’s when we became not just co-workers but really good friends. We got to trust and understand the way each other worked.” McEllrath continued, “When I first became International President, I remember having a meeting with the Titled Officers to go over roles and responsibilities. Wes was by far the best organizer I have ever seen. For me to tell him how to do his job would be crazy. He knew everything better than anyone out there.” Big Bob concluded, “With Wes’ passing, the ILWU lost a great labor leader. And for me, I lost a great friend.”

Legacy of a leader

Throughout the more than thirty years that he held office, first as an International Representative and then as International Vice President, Wes’ biggest contribution was furthering the ILWU’s organizing program in Hawaii, as the state’s economy continued shifting from agricultural to service work.

Longtime ILWU Organizer Tracy Takano recalls working with Wesley for over 24 years, spending their first five together as organizers for Local 142.

“When he was elected International Vice President, Wesley’s duties greatly expanded,” explained Takano. “He played a key role in building solidarity with unions around the world and representing ILWU members to top government officials and employers. But when we got together, either in Hawaii or over the phone, the conversation usually turned to organizing. Sometimes it was about specific drives, sometimes on strategic organizing. He liked to remind me by saying: ‘I’m an organizer.’”

“Wesley was very proud to be an International Vice President, and he was always clear on what it meant to hold union office. For him, respect didn’t come from the title. Respect had to be earned – and throughout his long union career, Wesley earned widespread respect for himself and the ILWU.”

It’s about the union

Wesley met his wife Marla 32 years ago through the ILWU: “It was funny because I used to see him (Wesley) on the Big Island working. Wesley knew my brother because they would rope (do rodeo) together so he was a familiar face. I was working at an ILWU hotel on the Kohala Coast while going to school part-time and Wes was organizing on the Big Island.” Marla said. “I was drawn to his charisma, his intelligence, and his passion for the things he loves, including the union. We had the same kind of humanitarian heart.”

Marla recalled his commitment to the ILWU. “The union was more than a position or a title for him. It was his life. He loved the union and what it stood for and saw his fellow ILWU members as part of his family. His job was everything to him and he sacrificed a lot for other people. He knew how important it was to never forget where we came from because we are here to help the people not to help ourselves. Wesley always said it’s not about the individual leader, it’s about the union and how you can make it better and stronger.”

Recent accomplishment

One of Wes’ last major accomplishments was the creation of Local 100 which represents newly-organized longshore supervisors. In addition to working with Hawaii’s powerhouse, Local 142, he also assisted the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific, Hawaii Region, with their organizing efforts.

Condolences from afar

After Wes’ passing in March, letters of condolence arrived to the ILWU from dockworker unions all over the globe. One heartfelt message came from the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) President Paddy Crumlin.

“Wesley’s union journey from the docks of Honolulu was as long as it was meaningful. It was founded on the hard rock of his belief in social and economic justice for all workers, and blessed with a gentle but pervasive charisma.

His achievements and actions bettered the lives of all he touched and were as steady as the Kona winds of his home,” Crumlin wrote. “The words and workings of Wes’ life were not solely dedicated to his fellow longshore and dock workers. He was a formidable and relentless activist for peace, an advocate for sovereign rights and true political independence and accountability, and of course, a warrior for justice, equality and universal access to all material benefits regardless of race, gender, age or religious denomination.”

ILWU Canada’s Local 502 lowered their flags to half-mast at the Vancouver union hall to honor Brother Wes’ memory.

A legacy remembered

ILWU International Vice President (Mainland) Bobby Olvera Jr., remembered Wes as a mentor and a selfless union leader. “Brother Wes was instrumental in mentoring me over the past 10 years,” he said. “Wes was an example of rank-and-file leadership, he demonstrated selfless commitment to the membership of the ILWU. He was a progressive advocate for workers’ rights around the world and his is a legacy that will live on forever.”

“The ILWU and the entire International trade union movement has lost an icon with the passing of Brother Wesley Furtado,” said ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris.

“I will always fondly remember Brother Wes’ kind and gentle nature, his wonderful sense of humor, and his strong dedication and commitment to his family and his union.

“My sincerest condolences and prayers go out to his entire family during his difficult time. May our good Brother Wes always rest in peace.”

Coast Committeeman Cameron Williams said, “Wesley Furtado is a true labor icon who dedicated his life’s work for the betterment of the ILWU family. I will greatly miss the subtle conversations and charisma Brother Furtado expressed as he entered a room. May his legacy live on through the Furtado family, and never forget the precious time we all enjoyed in the presence of our dear friend.”

Coast Committeeman Frank Ponce De Leon said, “I would like to express my heartfelt sympathies and condolences on the passing of Wesley to his family, Marla, Levana and Kyan, and to his brothers, sisters and friends in the State of Hawaii. My thoughts and prayers are with you all during these difficult days. Wesley’s passing will not only leave a void in our hearts but also as a leader in the ILWU as well. Wesley may be gone from our sights but never from our individual memories. May Wesley’s journey on the sands of theshore find him much peace and comfort. Aloha Brother Wes!”

Danny Miranda, President of Local 94, recalled the friendship he and Wes cultivated through the years and his admiration for Wes’ negotiating style.

“What made Wes so special as a leader was his passion for his work, his love for the Hawaiian culture and his love for the Hawaiian people. He treated the union like family. Wes wanted a better way of life for people, and he wanted them to feel good about their work, so he always stressed working conditions when negotiating. Wes always told me that in negotiations, you have to be a listener first and speak last. He always stayed calm and people trusted him. That’s what made him so effective.” ILWU Hawaii Longshore member Dustin Dawson recounted his many years working with and learning from Furtado. “Wes always gave everyone a chance to learn and teach what he knew. There are a lot of things that Wes doesn’t get credit for. He had the ear of a lot of powerful and influential people.

Whether they agreed with him or not, believed in the union or not, were Democrat or Republican, employer or worker—he had their ear. This was not because of his position but because of the person he was. He was always willing to sit down, listen, and talk story. Wes was always there for the members, not himself. We will never forget all the hard work Wes put into the ILWU. Because Wes trained and passed on his knowledge, his legacy will never die.”

James Spinosa, who served as ILWU International President from 2000-2006, remembered Wes’ work ethic and reliability. “He was a delightful guy to be around. Anytime I asked him for something, he was always there for me,” Spinosa said. “This is a great loss for the ILWU. He was someone who was always working to move the union forward.”

Eusebio “Bobo” Lapenia Jr., who was elected President of Local 142 in 1991 until 2003, first met Wes when while Wes was serving as a rank-and-file organizer in the 1980’s.

“Wesley was a very good organizer who was instrumental in organizing several major hotels on the Big Island,” Lapenia said. “He was a terrific leader and a testament to his generation. Hopefully he inspired a new generation of longshoremen to become leaders.”

ILWU President Willie Adams concluded with his favorite words of wisdom from Wesley: “Wes always told me, ‘Discussions are always better than arguments. An argument is to find out who is right. A discussion is to find out what is right.’ Wesley “The Hurricane” Furatado will always be remembered as the spirit of Hawaii and a labor leader for all seasons.”

Wes is survived by his wife Marla, his daughter Levana Solidum, his son Kyan Alaka’i Furtado, and three grandchildren.

Categories: Unions

International Executive Board endorses Joe Biden for President

Tue, 05/12/2020 - 16:21

Members of the ILWU International Executive Board (IEB) voted to endorse JoeBiden for President of the United States on May 11, 2020.

“We must protect the interests of working-class people in this election. We cannot afford another four years of Trump. Joe Biden is the candidate who can beat Trump and work with labor to better the lives of workers and their families.” said International President Willie Adams. “The majority of Americans are being underserved from the current administration when it comes to economic, social, and environmental justice. We are confident we can work with Vice-President Biden to make those critical improvements a reality.

The endorsement statement adopted on May 11, 2020, appears below.

Categories: Unions

President Adams’ address to the membership (Video)

Fri, 04/24/2020 - 09:48

ILWU International President Willie Adams addresses the membership on the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Categories: Unions

Petition: Keep Veterinary Workers Safe During COVID-19

Mon, 04/20/2020 - 09:49

ILWU Local 5 is alive and well. Fighting for workers’ rights in many industries. In Veterinary Medicine, we are doing everything possible to support the effort to get vet workers included in the legislation for HERO pay! Be sure to sign and share the petition! We are reaching out to our elected officials to ask them to help and to bring the pressure, we need every voice we can get!

Categories: Unions

ILWU’s COVID-19 resource page

Fri, 04/10/2020 - 15:32

Affected by COVID-19?
  • Recently unemployed
  • Reduced hours at work
  • Sick with COVID-19
  • Family member sick with COVID-19
  • School or childcare canceled

If any of the above apply to you, please visit the ILWU’s COVID-19 resource page:

Categories: Unions

Tartine workers launch petition for bakery to recall laid-off workers

Wed, 04/08/2020 - 10:15

Tartine workers launched an online petition asking the bakery to recall all laid off Tartine SF & Berkeley workers once restaurants are allowed to be back in operation. 

In an open letter to Tartine Bakery founders Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson as well as chief operating officer Chris Jordan, laid off workers asked “to sit down with Tartine management negotiate how to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on Tartine employees.”

Sign the petition here

Open letter to Liz Pruiett, Chad Robertson, and Chris Jordan,

As you know, the outbreak of COVID-19 has deeply affected the restaurant industry in the Bay Area. We understand that Tartine has been forced to close because of the preventative measures of the government and due to drastically reduced business. These circumstances have caused acute hardship for Tartine workers. Because of that, we are requesting to sit down with management and negotiate how to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on Tartine employees.

Most Tartine workers have now been officially laid off. In the communications we have received from management, we have received no indication that we will have jobs once Tartine locations reopen. Workers thus far have been informed that we may reapply for jobs through the Tartine website when they are posted. This adds a huge amount of stress onto an already stressful situation. For many of us, we are attempting to figure out how to survive the next few months under the assumption that we would have jobs to return to once Tartine reopens. Instead, we have been pushed into an even more uncertain situation. We are proud of the work we do at Tartine, and proud to do our part to make Tartine the internationally renowned name it is – we just want the ability to continue that work.

Workers are also now facing an uncertain situation with regards to our health coverage. Many of us are now losing our jobs during an international pandemic. This is a bad time to not have health insurance. We appreciate that the company has extended benefits to the end of April, but we have no idea how long this emergency situation will last for. We ask that the company do the right thing and extend our healthcare coverage.

For those workers still coming to work at Tartine, they need as much assurance as possible that they will be protected if they need to call out of work. Those who are afraid they may be carrying the virus do not want to endanger their coworkers, Tartine customers, and make a bad situation worse. We need more protection and ability to take care of ourselves, our coworkers, and our community.

We are asking to sit down and negotiate. We are requesting:

– A Recall List of existing employees. All employees who were with Tartine at the time layoff notices were issued will be the first recalled to work, starting with the most senior employee in each classification. Tartine must recall these employees before attempting to hire any other workers. This list will be in effect for one year.
– Tartine extend all of our benefits for four months. Tartine can qualify for a loan under the CARES Act to provide these benefits, and would be subject to loan forgiveness.
– We receive 2 more weeks of paid sick leave.

As this is a public letter, we call on all businesses in the hospitality and food service industry in the Bay Area to follow Tartine’s lead in committing to these three requests. We make the hospitality industry what it is. We are proud to do it and want to continue doing it. This is a time of crisis, and we are asking you to show leadership and do the right thing.

Tartine Union Organizing Committee

Read the SF Chronicle article here

Categories: Unions

ILWU women speak out

Tue, 04/07/2020 - 16:24

Patricia Aguirre
Local 63 Business Agent

I entered the industry during a transitional period where women were the minority in a male-centric industry. There was still resentment towards women in the ranks from the men. As a woman, I felt I had to prove myself capable of doing longshore work. With every challenge, I have encountered in my 22 years as a member of the ILWU, I have been able to learn and grow as a woman and as a leader and earn the respect of my male counterparts. The ILWU has afforded me the opportunity to evolve and has taught me to find my voice, express it and to empower other members.

My parents were both proud members of the ILWU. My mother showed me the strength a woman can have; she helped to lay the foundation for what it was to be a leader in the ILWU before I was even a member. In the early 90’s she stood up for her rights to organize into the union. She along with one other worker put up a picket line. She is now a retired Local 63 OCU member and I cannot tell you how very proud I am to have her in my life. My father, a walking boss, had a no-nonsense approach to work which guided my work ethic. He had a quote he used to recite: “I am a great believer in luck, the harder I work, the luckier I am.” I guess I got lucky. My father hired me as an estimator in his shop, that was no small thing. He is no longer with us but I know he was proud of me.

The development of ILWU educational workshops and being a mentor to those seeking guidance is what I am the proudest of. The workshops put on by the Coast Longshore Education Committee, Grievance and Arbitration Procedure (GAP) workshops and History and Traditions workshops. My committee is the essence of what the ILWU stands for: representatives of the longshore locals small and large from up and down the West Coast with a variety of experience and talent whose teamwork contributes to our success. All of my experiences in the ILWU merge and contribute to my leadership as a Business Agent. When I see in a member’s face or hear in their voice over the phone that “aha moment” where they get how they can work out an issue about the job or with the employer or our members, this brings me a sense of accomplishment.

To quote the History and Traditions conference: we are the “Caretakers of a Great Inheritance.” It is our job to empower those around us and pay it forward utilizing the tools our for fathers have left us; our contract, the 10 Guiding Principles and the adherence to the Four Objectives of the ILWU. The Union has given us an incredible legacy to pass on, you must be fierce, unafraid, willing to teach but most importantly willing to learn.

Donna Domingo
Local 142 President

I am proud to have served ILWU Local 142 in a leadership capacity for the past 25 years. I made the decision to run for Local Vice President in 2003. A woman in leadership at this level was unprecedented, but I felt empowered to run anyway because at that point I had held many positions at both the unit and Local level and knew the importance of teamwork;\ in the union, nobody does anything alone.

Even though my decision to run drew attention for many reasons, like the fact that I was a woman and from the tourism industry (all Local 142 Titled Officers up until that point had come from the sugar industry), I managed to be elected to the seat of Vice President and served there for three terms. There were so many challenges I faced as the first woman to ever hold this seat, but I knew the importance of breaking this barrier and did not want to let anyone down. I relied constantly on the power of collaboration and learned time and again the importance of communicating with others so the best of everyone can be brought forward.

In 2012, I ran and was elected to the seat of Local President. In that role, I once again found myself only being as good as the efforts of everyone around me, from the Titled Officers and Division Directors of Local 142 to its members. I owe a debt of gratitude not so much to the impact of one mentor in particular, as I do the security I always felt from representing a whole and the underlying democracy of all our protocols. To any woman who wants to break barriers in her organization, I would encourage her to do so not just for herself but for the difference she believes she can make. And to know that kind of intention will always find support in this union.

Viri Gomez
Local 519, Young Worker

My husband was a big influence in my life to be an activist. When I first started on the waterfront, I had heard about some of the history of the labor movement and it all seemed so boring. I was there for a paycheck. But when I went to the first Young Workers’ Conference and saw what the ILWU stands for—what our ancestors had to do for us to get all of the wages and benefits that we have now—I felt like I could be a part of that.

I could leave a legacy. They did so much for us, I needed to do something in return. One of my biggest accomplishments was to help start a Young Workers Committee in my local union. I also got to be a part of the ILWU Canada’s Young Workers Committee. That gave me a voice and visibility. Before that, I was just another person working in a small port in the northern part of Canada.

One of my goals and challenges is how can I influence more young workers? How can I attract more workers to be more active? Also, how can I be a better leader? How can I listen and learn?

I met Joulene Parent once and saw how active she was. I wanted to be her. How does she manage to be everywhere and be present at every event? She was one of my inspirations for being an activist.

As a Youth Representative on the ITF Dockers Section, Youth Committee, I went to Sri Lanka. There was a round table of the first women crane operators in Sri Lanka. That made me realize how easy it is to take for granted how privileged I am living in a First World country.

I am a woman and I have rights. I can fight for my rights if I am not being treated with justice because the law protects me. The Sri Lankan dockworkers were being harassed. They were underpaid and were not being treated with respect. It is very important for women to support other women. We have a lot of rights but not every woman around the world has that. And not everyone is aware of the fights that other sisters in other unions have to fight. If we all get together, we can support each other and accomplish good things. Have more sympathy and try to look farther than what you can see.

Luisa Gratz
Local 26 President

After my son was born, I got a job in a wire factory in East Los Angeles. I had to take two buses each way to work. I was one of two women in the shop and we did the welding. The men ran the lathes. One day, one of our co-workers was killed on the job. I didn’t know much Spanish and my other coworkers didn’t know much English but we were able to communicate enough to sign union cards.

I called the ILWU and I called the UE. The UE called me back. Word got out to management and they called me into the office. They investigated me and had discovered that I had an engineering background and reassigned me to layout a new factory for an adjacent property they had just bought. They threatened to fire me if I didn’t accept the reassignment. I knew what they were doing. They wanted me out of that shop and on top of that, they were getting an engineering job done for minimum wage. The day I finished my drawing was the day of the union election. The union won and I got fired. The union asked if I wanted my job back and I said no. The union later got a contract.

Then in early 1968 got a job at Max Factor which was an ILWU Local 26 shop. They would not allow women in the maintenance department, warehouse or the compounding department. They would not promote Black workers in maintenance either, so we had that fight and finally through an arbitration got a Black mechanic promoted to a lead position.

Women were not allowed to bid into the warehouse or compounding department but we were able to overturn that through the grievance process. I also negotiated an apprenticeship program for the maintenance department and got three women trained as mechanics. I was recruited and elected steward there and after two years, I was elected to the Local 26 Executive Board. I wasn’t looking to get involved at the time. I didn’t want to run for anything but the members of the union kept telling me I had to run. I was talked into running for Business Agent when there was a vacancy after the BA retired. Then in 1984 I was elected President of the local.

There is such inequality in this country that the work of the unions becomes very challenging just to squeeze a few pennies from a person who has millions of dollars. How much is enough for CEOs while workers struggle to pay their bills every month?

What my life is and what I do is a reflection of the city and country. The companies that Local 26 used to represent were manufacturing companies, mining companies, auto parts and more that contributed to our infrastructure, to our schools, to emergency care. Much like in the rest of the country, those jobs have gone away, thanks to automation and trade deals like NAFTA that have made offshoring of jobs easier and more profitable.

I’ve been lucky that the members have asked me to stay. I’ve stayed because I believe in the preamble of the ILWU Constitution. I’ve stayed focused on the membership and keeping the local functioning and defending our health plan and pensions that are threatened by automation and job loss. It’s not about me, it’s about we.

Vivian Malauulu,
Local 13 Benefits Officer

None of the challenges I’ve faced on the waterfront have had anything to do with my ability to get any job done, but rather with resistance for doing it. Women who speak up and stand out are often faced with resistance. When one woman succeeds, all women succeed and the road ahead becomes more manageable, tolerable, and welcoming for the rest of us.

The mentoring that I have received over the years has shaped me into the union sister that I am today. It is noteworthy to mention that studying the mistakes that others have made is just as valuable – if not more – as studying their successes. I have personally had the great fortune of getting advice from solid rank-and-filers since my early days as a casual.

There are dozens, hundreds possibly, of individuals who have influenced me as a longie and as a leader. There are two individuals who stand out:

• Sister Luisa Gratz is the longest standing president of any ILWUlocal as the leader of Local 26 for almost 30 years. She has taught me so much in the 20 years that I have known her. One of the most significant ideals that she instilled in me is to always put the membership first in every decision that I make. She taught me this years ago, andto this day, before doing anything union-related, I always ask myself a series of questions to determine how my actions will affect the membership. She taught me to never back down or out of a tough fight, and to never give up when I know in my heart that I am doing the right thing.

• Our late Brother Dave Arian had a tremendous impact on my development as a union leader. I affectionately refer to him as my “union father” in appreciation for the 20 years of advice that he poured into me. Dave took great care in guiding my union walk and helping me identify opportunities of service both in and out of the union. He taught me to consider every possible option and to analyze every potential outcome. His wisdom about worldly issues that affect the labor movement and our community still echo around me.

I am eternally grateful to both of them for the gifts of their personal friendship and professional mentorship. They both served key roles in my development and journey as an effective union leader. My goal is to pay that forward by being a loyal friend and knowledgeable mentor to my sisters and brothers.

I am very proud of the good reputation that the quality of my work has on the docks, in the boardroom, and in office. Many people consider my election as the first female Benefits Officer of Local 13 to be a big deal, but I think it is a bigger deal that I am regarded as someone who serves the membership responsibly with integrity and humility. It does not matter what my title is, it only matters that my sisters and brothers trust that I am doing a good job working with them, and working for them.

I encourage sisters to get involved early and intentionally. There is something for everyone in our great union. Women should take stock of their abilities and interests and then apply them within their respective locals. As long as women build each other up and support each other, the ILWU will continue to flourish as a place where women are respected for their contributions, and entrusted with leadership.

Joulene Parent
Local 500 Executive

I’ve received mentoring and support from a number of people. A wise person said, “show me your friends and the people around you and I’ll show you, your future.” So it’s important to choose mentors wisely, and quite frankly, sometimes they choose you. Equally important is to not just rely on one person. As with our union, our strength is in the collective wisdom of those around us.

Near and far. From our Local 500 pensioners, Barry Campbell, Ted Grewcutt, Chuck Zuckerman, Tom Dufresne. From Local 514, a number of Gems: who I’m sure want to remain nameless.

From our local Labour community: Joey Hartman, who is our past Vancouver District Labour President, and from the ILWU Women: Donna Domingo, Cynthia Brooke, Angela Talic, Vanessa Neilson, as well numerous Young Workers, past and present. Showing up, IS support, so I want to thank each and every one of them, for showing up!

I remember meeting a woman while flying. She was a tall stunning woman of color, and was flipping through the magazine mid-air. She then stated,” Oh my! Thats me! I helped work on that!” She was part of the NASA crew. I then asked her, how she got to be where she is.

“Did you just have good friends and support?” I asked,

“Nah girl,” she said, It’s all basic math. There are always those who want to take from you, your time, energy resources, even your man…and then there are those who want to add, or multiply to your life. They are introducing you to friends that add to your life, or the potential to multiply whatever it is joy, love, dedication, education. I just chose to surround myself with the adders and multipliers, and get rid of the rest.”

We of the ILWU have that potentiality. Add. Multiply. Our wild cards are the ITF, Local District Labour Councils, Young Workers, Pensioners and community allies. We have the recipe and we have the foundation to put it into action with our constitution and bylaws.

When we know this, it cannot be taken from us by the employer, government, etc. They can try, but we do our multiplication when we Educate, Agitate, and Organize. The Best math of all.

An accomplishment I am proud of was amplifying the Story of the Bows and Arrows, the original Indigenous workers on the Waterfront. I’ve had the opportunity to share this, locally at the Pacific Northwest Labour History Conference, as well as abroad at the Summer Institute of Union Women. It is important to pay respects to the original land keepers, whose descendants are still working among us.

Another accomplishment collectively our union got involved with the Canada’s side of ’United Way Tampon Tuesday Campaign’. Angela Talic was the Executive at the time and was involved in it, on behalf of the local. She asked others to get involved and I said yes. The campaign has since rebranded itself as Period Promise, and has been successful because of the labour movement. It was our collective voice blended with lobbying local governments. It has been so successful.

Now many local schools and communities offer these products free. Workers shouldn’t have to decide between food and other basic necessities for that month or getting menstrual products. Saying “Yes” when the Union/ Community needs help, makes me feel good.

Andrea Stevenson, Welfare Director Washington State ILWU-PMA Benefit Plans

Being a third-generation longshore person was never Plan A for me. When Plan B presented itself, I took the opportunity to take my father’s book in 1992 under the permissive rule.

Now my experiences as a longshore worker hold the deepest, most sincere part of my heart and soul. The ILWU means everything to me. I went full throttle, became active in union politics and have held many elected union positions, such as Local President, Business Agent, Executive Board, Labor Relations, Trustee and Dispatcher.

Now I’m the Area Welfare Director in Washington state for the ILWU-PMA Benefit Plans. I now can help members who raised me up in this industry for the past 28 years. My job is very rewarding, challenging and fast-moving.

I started with longshore “lingo” and training. There was no active training in 1992. I remember someone yelling at me to “go get a “bombcart,” and I thought, “what’s a bombcart?” I remember my first job driving a semi at Pier 5 in Seattle with no earplugs. I picked the worst semi available and drove it for 8 hours. The seat didn’t move forward, there was no two-way radio, and the foreman would just yelling over the ship’s rail and waving paperwork around. I couldn’t tell if he was yelling at me or the guy behind me. My ears were ringing because of the noise and I could not hear a thing! I have plenty of stories but this memory makes me laugh when I think how far we’ve come.

I’m so grateful for my uncle John Finne who literally begged me just to try the work. I appreciate John Wimbish who taught me how to drive semi. He said, “Turn towards the turn!” From that day forward, I could back containers up anywhere. I have to thank Ron Crabtree, Joe Toro, Al Meeds, Al Barnes, Mike Snyder, Joe Ross, John Ross and Ted Farrison; all of whom took the time to show me how to work safely.

And thank you Bob McEllrath who taught me, “Sometimes you may be the only one at the table who believes in your opinion and that’s ok, you stand by your opinion.”

Women on the waterfront are definitely becoming more active in politics as well as various union committees. I’m very happy to see that, but not because they’re women – I’m happy to see anyone who steps up and gets involved on behalf of the ILWU. As the Washington Benefits Coordinator, my phone now rings every day with the craziest situations. There have been several times that I helped a woman sort out a complicated mess, which is the next step to understanding union politics. If I can’t help, I look for an answer. The short of it is, I am willing to help anyone, man or woman.

Dawn Des Brisay
ILWU Local 40

It was difficult being a woman on the waterfront in the beginning, I was 24-years old, when I entered the industry in 1986 through the Child of the deceased Program. At the time, Local 8’s membership consisted of hundreds of men and 11 women.

The older men had definite views about a women’s role, which didn’t include women working on the waterfront. Even when I didn’t feel accepted, I knew the ILWU was fundamentally rooted in loyalty and brotherhood. As the years passed, the union became more inclusive and progressive. I feel fortunate to be a part of that growth.

There have been several people who have supported and encouraged me along the way but probably the most significant event happened in 2002, when President Spinoza and Coast CommitteemanJoe Wenzl asked if I would join the ILWU Legislative Action Committee. That appointment changed the trajectory of my career and I will always be grateful for that.

In 2008, I organized the field effort for the Labor 2008 election program.\The ILWU sent a total 50 members and pensioners to five battleground states to work on the election. This was my first big project.

Working closely with the Coast Longshore Division, ILWU members and pensioners, we won all five battleground senate seats and helped to elect President Obama. It was a rewarding experience.

The best advice I received was to get involved. Run for office, join a committee, participate in the labor community. Because you never know where it will lead. In my case it gave me a voice, a stronger relationship with my peers and a working knowledge of the union.

All members, women and men alike, are encouraged to get involved. Our diverse talents will advance the best interest of the ILWU.

Categories: Unions

CRVS workers and supporters rally in the rain

Tue, 04/07/2020 - 12:01

Workers at Columbia River Veterinary Specialists are serious about improving the working conditions and patient care at their animal hospital – so spirits at their rally on February 15 weren’t damped by the downpour.

“We’ve got more important problems than a little rain,” said Kat Bennett, who is a Veterinary Technician at the hospital where workers voted overwhelmingly to join the ILWU and are now negotiating their first union contract.

The rally in front of the animal hospital was well-attended and people were in high spirits despite the rain.

Besides the good showing the CRVS workers, additional support came from the members of the National Veterinary Professionals Union, Jobs with Justice, the Inlandboatmen’s Union, ILWU Local 40, the Young Workers Committee at Local 23 in Tacoma, ILWU Local 5, #TeamNWVS and the Communication Workers of America. Special guests included doctors who work at the hospital and are supporting the effort to improve conditions inside the facility, along with former CRVS employees.

“We held signs, chanted and waved to all the drivers who were incredibly friendly as they passed by,” said Annie Pressler, Veterinary Technician. “They showed support by honking their horns and sometimes even gave us a raised fist in solidarity.”

The animal care workers took turns practicing on the bullhorn, leading chants and calling out the company to improve conditions.

A growing number of veterinary hospitals – including CRVS – are now owned by national corporations, including PetVet, formed in 2012 with headquartered in Connecticut and 125 locations around the country. Five years later in 2017, PetVet was acquired by the Wall Street hedge fund KKR, in a leveraged buyout.

The CRVS workers’ bargaining team met recently to finalize their updated wage proposal. They told PetVet that picketing would be suspended while management considers the proposas they consider their next offer. Depending on the company response, workers may decide to escalate further with another rally where news media are invited. Other ideas are also in the works in case additional steps are needed.

“The power dynamic between big corporations and workes is enormous, but unionizing has given us a voice at the negotiating table and made a big difference,” says Mary Gregory, a Surgical Instrument Tech. “We’ve made progress and gained improvements through our negotiations – and we have solid support from the professional staff, our clients and so many groups in the community. I’m excited about what the contract will ultimately mean for our workplace.”

Categories: Unions

How to help Local 5 members impacted by Coronavirus

Tue, 04/07/2020 - 11:26

Hundreds of ILWU Local 5 members working at Powell’s Books in Portland were laid off due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has forced many retail businesses to close temporarily. The company is not providing any severance, continuation of health coverage or other measures to help lessen the impact of the closure on workers.

In repose to the closure, Local 5 issued the following statement:

“In ILWU Local 5, the union representing Powell’s Books employees since 1999, appreciates the decision to close the retail locations of the bookstore. The safety of workers and customers is always of paramount concern, especially given the current global pandemic. As with most emergencies, those that suffer the most are workers and marginalized communities. We do not believe this to be appropriate or fair and in this moment we continue to urge all Employers, including Powell’s Books, to continue to support workers in any and every way possible.

The loss of profit is nothing compared to the lifelong trauma such a loss of income and benefits are likely to have for individuals. ILWU has a long time saying we live by: “An Injury to One Is An Injury To All”. We call upon all to make this moment count and support everyone in our community in every way we can.”

Local 5 members working at Aramark and Growing Seeds are also experiencing layoffs and some veterinary pet care workers are having their hours cut.

You can contribute directly to the ILWU Local 5 Coronavirus worker relief fund at or by visiting the Local 5 website at

Categories: Unions

ILWU delegation builds solidarity at international rank-and-file conference in Australia

Sat, 04/04/2020 - 09:45

ILWU International officers led a delegation to the Maritime Union of Australia’s National Conference during the first week of March. The event attracted over 500 rank and file union delegates, including International President Willie Adams, Vice President (Mainland) Bobby Olvera Jr., Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris, Local 13 Secretary-Treasurer Mark Williams, Local 19 President Rich Austin Jr., Local 22 member Jairus Brenneise, Local 23 President Jared Faker along with members John Stagg and Brock Graber, and longtime pensioner Rich Austin.

Quadrennial Conference

The MUA Conference is held every four years and includes a tradition of inviting the ILWU and other maritime unions from around the globe. It’s part of a solidarity tradition that pre-dates the MUA’s 2018 affiliation with Australia’s

Construction Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union. With the MUA now one of four CFMEU Divisions, their combined forces now total over 144,000 workers. That’s still just one-percent of Australia’s workforce, but the union’s power is magnified by their militant stance against injustice and advocacy for the country’s working class.

Understanding “Tjungu”

The conference theme was Tjungu, a word used by native people living in the continent’s western deserts, as a way to express the idea of unity and coming together.

The MUA has made a determined effort in recent years to embrace the cause of native Australians and address the many injustices they have suffered. The union created a new position on their Executive Board for a National Indigenous Officer, currently held by native leader Thomas Mayor.

“Tjungu is unity,” he said. “That’s also how we’ve fought-off conservative governments and fought for workers’ rights.”

Delegates were welcomed to the Conference by Yugambeh Traditional Landowners of the Gold Coast, MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin rose to remind everyone about the appalling treatment experienced by Australia’s indigenous people.

“After 200 years of genocide, murder, imprisonment, taking away your rights, it is up to our generation to set things right,” he said – reaffirming the union’s support for constitutional changes supported jointly by native groups and the MUA..

“We don’t want any more deaths in custody or stolen children stripped from their families and cultures,” he said. “What we are meaning to do this week is to come together with one voice, in the spirit of Tjungu that resonates here and beyond.”

Crumlin, who sounded at times like Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, attacked policies led by conservative governments in Australia and other nations that have allowed elites to flourish at the expense of the 99 percent.

“How is it that a handful of billionaires have come to own half of the world’s wealth,” he asked.

“Two thousands of the world’s billionaires now have more money than 4.6 billion men and women on this planet,” he said. “Our health care is being privatized, our communities are being privatized and the water we drink is being privatized.”

“Workers face poverty, war and virus pandemics. They face fire and flood induced by climate change. Politicians have failed us, shipping is deregulated, ports are being privatized.

The land we stand on was just burnt to the ground after indigenous people successfully nurtured it for centuries.”

“The conservative government in our country and many others has disregarded global warming because the big end of the town doesn’t want anything to stand in the way of their profits,” he said. Crumlin concluded by calling for a “just transition” that provides workers with good-paying jobs in renewable industries.

MUA National President Christy Cain spoke, using the conference theme of Tjungu to explain their effort to consolidate Australia’s militant unions into a tighter federation.

“We amalgamated for a number of reasons but the main reason was strength,” he said. “We are one powerful union that is proud to lead the struggle for the working class in this country.”

A similar theme was sounded by nation’s Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sally McMannus. She posed a series of tough questions: “How come there is so much wage theft? Why do we have record low wage growth? Why is inequality getting worse? Maybe it’s because 50% of Australian workers used to have a union and no only 15 percent do.” She said a series of conservative governments had ripped apart worker protections and attacked unions without mercy.

Manus also blamed billionaires in Australia for threatening to destroy democracy, comparing the tycoons in her country with ones in America who are also buying elections with unlimited campaign spending.

An even broader perspective was offered by Steve Cotton, General Secretary of the International Transport Workers Federation that links together hundreds of unions across the globe. He noted the challenge of automation that threatens drivers, dockworkers, warehouse workers and others in millions of jobs that could disappear with no concern for workers and their families.

Together with Paddy Crumlin, who also serves as ITF President, Cotton says the ITF network has launched a more militant strategy to fight for workers’ rights globally – a move that’s attracting more unions to join the organization.

“The global supply chain is where we need to strengthen our position,” said Cotton. “We supported Paddy to change the face of ITF. We wanted to capture the MUA spirit and bring that to a global labor movement. We now have nearly 20 million members – the highest in years. ”

Crumlin, in his remarks, said the fight against corporate greed must be front and center.

“We took-on Chevron on with our Western Australia comrades,” he said. “We went after that company and made them pay up a $800M tax bill,” he added. “Steve and I put action back in the ITF, not just words,” said Crumlin.

“Together with the ILWU, the MUA ILWU delegation builds solidarity at international rank-and-file conference in Australia has turned the ITF into a fighting international force for the rights and justice of the international working class.”

ILWU International President Willie Adams took the podium to explain the struggle in the U.S., emphasizing the need to “look forward” and “build strong bonds of solidarity.”

Adams said “the MUA conference came at a watershed moment in the history of unions around the globe. There was a strong presence from North American unions including the ILWU and ILA. There was good dialogue, painful conversations and solidarity from the ITF, IDC, MUA, Maritime Union of New Zealand and Dutch Dockers Union, the FNV.”

“It’s about moving forward,” said Adams, ”and not looking in the rearview mirror. For the first time, we were all under the same roof and had to get over ourselves.” Adams thanked members of the ILWU delegation for their participation and show of solidarity.

The conference adjourned on March 6 after four full days of meetings.

Categories: Unions

COVID19 becomes a medical and economic disaster

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 10:57

As The Dispatcher was going to press in March, the COVID19 virus had become a global pandemic, claiming 27,000 lives worldwide and making the US the most-afflicted nation on earth with 185,000 confirmed cases and a domestic death toll of 3,800 and rising. Washington State and California are the West Coast hotspots, but the COVID19 virus has now spread to all 50 states. Eighty percent of Americans are living under “shelter-in-place” orders issued by state governors after the federal government failed to act.

President Trump ignored advice from public health experts to prepare ahead and act early. Instead, the President delayed and minimized the threat until the virus spread throughout the United States and shortages of ventilators and face masks led to chaos in hospitals – forcing doctors, nurses and other health workers to be needlessly infected.

As usual, workers were paying the highest price for incompetence at the top, with record-breaking numbers filing unemployment claims, and the prospect of widespread evictions, foreclosures and mounting personal debt.

Trump cuts protection

Today’s disaster has roots going back two years, to February 1, 2018 -the day that President Trump slashed vital programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those programs were created to stop epidemics in 39 high-risk countries, including China.

Key programs eliminated

The programs Trump cut were part of a global health security effort, designed to stop dangerous disease outbreaks in other countries before they reach the US. The program trained front-line workers how to detect dangerous outbreaks and improved local laboratory and emergency response teams where the risk of disease was highest. The goal is to stop future outbreaks at their source to prevent small outbreaks from becoming global pandemics. 

Painful history lesson

Public health officials have long advocated for strategies to prevent disease, beginning at the turn of the 20th century when most workers and their families lived near open sewers and drank water contaminated by human waste and industrial pollution. Scientists had to fight to be heard over objections from factory owners who resisted reform efforts. Opportunist politicians inflamed public fear with racist appeals against the so-called “moral-failings” of various racial and ethnic groups of workers who were blamed for spreading disease, including African-Americans, Chinese, Mexicans, Irish and Italians.

Labor & public health together

It seems obvious today that sanitary sewage systems and clean drinking water are cornerstones of public health and disease prevention, but it was far from obvious at the beginning of the 20th Century. It took a movement, led by a coalition of labor organizers, immigrant rights workers, doctors and scientists, and outraged women – who along with African Americans – had no rights to vote or hold public office.

These reformers led campaigns against a long list of diseases including typhoid, polio, tetanus, diphtheria, scarlet fever and malaria – many of which were eliminated through battles for better housing, clean water and sanitation, universal public education and voting rights.

Many progressive labor organizers saw public health advocates as natural allies because both were fighting to improve conditions for the entire working class, most of whom lived in wretched conditions and faced lethal diseases on a daily basis – when not working in factories filled with children who labored in dangerous conditions.

Conservative labor leaders at the time were of little help – often aligning themselves with racist politicians who delivered crumbs of patronage in exchange for votes and bribes.

Roosevelt’s public health plan

By the time Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933 during the Great Depression, many cities had installed sanitary sewers and cleaner water systems. Public health departments with nurses were on city payrolls. New disease prevention measures included immunizations, quarantines, nutritional education for new mothers and other efforts to help children. All these and more programs exploded under Roosevelt’s “New Deal” programs that built thousands of parks, playgrounds, water treatment and sewage plants, flood control, rural electrification, plus farm and nutrition programs that helped both rural and urban Americans.

Bi-partisan agreement

For 75 years after Franklin Roosevelt’s administration, presidents from both parties have supported public health programs, including ones designed to stop disease outbreaks in other countries from spreading around the globe and threatening America.

Pay a little now or lot later

The COVID19 pandemic is far from over, but some lessons are already clear:

• Preventing a pandemic is much easier than battling one that’s out of control.

• Strong and decisive governmental action is required to fight a pandemic.

• A poorly-managed pandemic causes enormous harm to workers and their families.

With thousands of ILWU members now out of work because of Trump’s bungled COVID19 response, attention will soon shift to the November election, where his handling of the pandemic response could be a key factor for many voters.

Categories: Unions

Tartine Bakery workers favor ILWU

Wed, 04/01/2020 - 10:13

Almost 200 Tartine Bakery workers participated in a pair of union elections held in the Bay Area on March 12 and 13, where a majority signaled support for the ILWU.

Targeted by union-busters The largest group of workers at three San Francisco bakery locations were targeted by management who deployed professional union busters that forced employees into mandatory captive-audience meetings over a period of four weeks prior to the March 12 vote. A separate group of 18 Tartine Bakery workers in Berkeley had no contact with anti-union consultants and voted unanimously for the union.

Company pads voter rolls

The ballot count at those locations showed workers prevailing for the union by 89 to 85, but two-dozen ballots had to be challenged and have yet to be tallied. About two-thirds of the challenged ballots appear to involve improprieties – either because they were cast by supervisors or by newly-hired employees who had never worked a full shift. Federal law prohibits either group from voting.

NLRB will decide

A hearing will be conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, to review each of the two-dozen challenged ballots, relying on facts and evidence to make a final decision. 

Community support remains key

A few days after the elections, Tartine management announced widespread layoffs at all four Bay Area locations. Within days, union supporters organized a “Go Fund Me” site union-hardship-fund where community members are responding generously to help Tartine workers.

Artists help campaign

Two renowned Bay Area artists are donating their work to support the fundraising drive. David Solnit has created 100 autographed posters that will be available to the first donors who give $100 or more. Photographer David Bacon is donating a series of signed art photos that will be auctioned online to honor the workers’ union drive and the community support effort.

Tartine goes corporate

The original Tartine Bakery on 18th and Guerrero Street in San Francisco became a sensation when it opened years ago, triggering long lines of loyal patrons who loved the artisan bread and pastries. In recent years,

Tartine became more corporate, opening a chain of outlets overseas and in Los Angeles where Tartine Bianca closed last December 19, after losing large sums of money. Bay Area workers say they need a union to negotiate fairly with the Tartine’s corporate culture. One of Tartine’s bakeries, at San Francisco’s International Airport, already is represented by a union.

Categories: Unions

ITF: US maritime unions playing essential role in COVID-19 fight

Mon, 03/30/2020 - 08:03

As the United States is grappling with a surge of COVID-19 cases, US maritime unions are on the frontlines aiding the government’s efforts to combat the spread of the virus.

Last week, the government activated its two military hospital ships, the USNS Mercy and the USNS Comfort, which will be docked in Los Angeles and New York City. 

The two 1000-bed military hospitals ships will provide California and New York additional hospital capacity, and vital relief to the both state’s hospitals that are reaching capacity due to the outbreak of Covid-19. 

The USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort are crewed by civil service mariners who operate and navigate the ship, load and off-load the cargo, assist with the repairs to mission equipment and provide essential services to keep the ships running. These mariners are represented by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) seafarers’ affiliates – the Seafarers International Union (SIU), the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA) and the Masters, Mates and Pilots (MM&P).

“The United States maritime unions have a long history of providing aide and assistance in times of need, and this is no exception. We will continue to work with the government and industry to overcome this crisis,” said David Heindel, secretary-treasurer of the Seafarers International Union and ITF Seafarers Section chair.

ITF Dockers affiliates, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), are also aiding in the efforts. On Friday, ILWU Locals 13, 63 and 94 welcomed the USNS Mercy and worked together to tie up the ship as it docked in the Port of Los Angeles. 

“ILWU longshoremen, mechanics, marine clerks and foremen are heroes on the front line of the supply chain. Moving the economy, moving cargo; we are open for business. The assistance the ILWU provided in Los Angeles is just one example of how ILWU members are aiding in the efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19,” said Willie Adams, ILWU president and ITF Dockers’ Section vice chair. 

The USNS Comfort is expected to arrive in New York City on Monday, and the ILA will welcome the vessel and provide assistance to the relief efforts.

“The dedication of ILA members to serve during this pandemic is inspirational. We share the goal to provide assistance to help other first-responders, to keep our ports open, and to ensure that the general public get the supplies they need,” said ILA President Harold Daggett.

In addition to the important role the United States maritime unions are playing to assist with the USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort, seafarers and dockers unions are playing a critical role in keeping the supply chain moving. Despite the risk of infection to themselves and their families, workers are ensuring that essential medical supplies and goods are being delivered, unloaded and loaded onto vessels. 

Categories: Unions

ILWU Members Proudly Welcome USNS Mercy to Port of Los Angeles

Fri, 03/27/2020 - 12:12

SAN PEDRO — Members of ILWU Locals 13, 63 and 94 welcomed the USNS Mercy Friday, working together to tie up the ship as it docked in the Port of Los Angeles.

The naval hospital ship will help lift the burden on local hospitals and medical facilities that need to focus their resources on patients affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 800 medical professionals and support members will staff the 1,000-bed ship.

“At a time when many Californians are being advised to stay at home, ILWU members are at work, moving critically needed medical supplies, personal protective equipment, pharmaceuticals and household goods to the American markets,” said ILWU Local 13 President Ray Familathe.

“ILWU members are showing up day in and day out to keep the economy robust and our supply chains strong,” said ILWU Local 63 President Mike Podue. “And today, they played a role in making sure Angelenos have the medical care they need.”

“We are incredibly proud that our members were a part of welcoming USNS Mercy to Los Angeles and supporting our health care professionals while they care for the families of our local communities and all of Los Angeles County,” said Danny Miranda, president of Local 94.

ILWU Locals 13, 63 and 94 have worked closely with their partners at PMA, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and all relevant government health agencies to protect their members during the COVID-19 outbreak. This work has included limiting the number of people gathered in the dispatch halls, securing a vendor to clean the Longshore and Casual halls twice a day, and installing hand sanitizer stations throughout both locations.

Categories: Unions

ILA Letter of condolence for Vice President Wes Furtado

Mon, 03/23/2020 - 12:51

Download a copy of the letter here

Categories: Unions