ON THE WATERFRONT
One of the ongoing labor disputes that has garnered growing concern involves the West Coast dockworkers, represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union ("ILWU") ,and the dock owners, represented by the Pacific Maritime Association ("PMA"). As with so many other recent labor disputes, the primary issues include the impact of new technologies and the rising cost of health care.
The government, for its part, has hinted at intervention to prevent a strike. The government has the power to invoke an 80-day "cooling off" period under the Taft-Hartley Act. More troubling are threats by the current administration, encouraged by the port employers, to limit or eliminate entirely the workers' right to strike through an act of Congress. With luck, the employers will get over their unfettered greed and make a fair deal, avoiding disruptions that may have unintended long-term consequences.
On August 6, the Associated Press reported the Bush administration is considering using troops to keep West Coast ports open in the event of a strike or lockout by management. Steve Stallone, ILWU communications director, said that in a meeting with union negotiators, a Labor Department lawyer "threatened to bring in the National Guard to militarily take over the ports."
Not only does ILWU have to worry about military intervention but they also have to battle a new coalition called the West Coast Waterfront Coalition, comprised of the Pacific Maritime Association, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Target. Sounds like there is a much larger plan against labor being initiated here.
The following exerpt is from ILWU's model support letter to Senators and Congressional representatives.
We understand the Bush administration has already weighed in unduly on the negotiations by threatening to support the employers against the ILWU, by imposing a Taft-Hartley injunction against the union, by passing legislation restricting the ILWU's legal collective bargaining rights and by sending National Guard troops to take over the docks. And we are very disturbed by how the Bush administration is using the legitimate post 9-11 national security concerns to justify this anti-union activity.
The union's legitimate concerns deserve the legal due process of collective bargaining without the government's interference. The employers will never bargain in good faith while they know the government is ready to act on its behalf. We fear this is why negotiations have dragged on unproductively for this long.
I have to say that when I see large corporate coalitions, along with the threat of government intervention, opposing labor during negotiations, it boggles my mind about what could possibly be next.
The government has lots of experience in this sort of thing. They are just going back to their old tactics...
The IWW was very active in the lumber industry in 1917 and we were making gains in wages, hours, and working conditions. As deplorable as wages and conditions were, there was much room for improvement. Then the employers, and their Government hatched up a scheme to beat the IWW. They set up a new "Patriotic Union" called the 4-L (Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen). This was a pure and simple Company Union and in most locals, the Superintendent of the mill would be "President" of the Local. The company would furnish beer and other refreshments at the meetings. Many times the boys would vote to cut their own wages at a time when lumber sold for a fantastic price.
Naturally, there were no "dues" in this phony union. During this period the Spruce Division was formed in order to get out spruce for airplanes. In some cases the "Spruce" that turned out to be hemlock, a heavy wood of weak tensile strength certainly not suitable for planes. Then too, lumberjacks were drafted into the Spruce Divisionat army pay while the employers made a killing from this slave labor, and fat Government contracts. To the undying glory of the IWW, they fought this unholy conspiracy tooth and nail , and many of them went to jail.
Blackcat, I really enjoyed that link! Tom Scribner's writing makes for wonderful reading. I backed up and read the forward. Can't wait to read the rest! Thanks!
I also have some more on ILWU's problems.
As contract talks between West Coast longshore workers and the shipping industry remain stalled, the Bush administration is threatening to prevent a strike by any means necessary.
Playing national security and the limitless war on terroism as trump cards, Bush is seeking to brand the International Longshore Workers Union (ILWU) and its members as un-American for not accepting an inferior contract and threatening to strike.
Despite Bush's rhetoric, delayed shipments to the Gap, Mattel and Home Depot hardly pose a threat to national security. web page
Portland ILWU bicycle supporters arrested on way to rally. (pictures)
Reporter (Portland Mercury) that was part of bike ride arrested. (story)
The ILWU rally they were going to. (pictures)
Looks and sounds like the rally was a little dis-organized! They sure put the old blitz-krieg on the critical-mass bikers. We probably haven't heard the last of that. I've been trying to find out more on this coalition between PMA, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Target. If you find anything, please share it. I don't like the looks of this coalition or the idea of military involvement.
One of the major allies of the PMA in its efforts to lobby the Bush Administration is an organization known as the "West Coast Waterfront Coalition." This organization, created at the end of 2000, has as its defining purpose "to educate policy makers and the public about the economic importance of West Coast ports and Far East trade, and to promote the most efficient and technologically advanced ports for the twenty-first century . . . ." In other words, it was created to lobby the government to weaken or break the ILWU. Its members include such "big box" retailers as Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot and Best Buy, as well as manufacturers such as Toyota and Yamaha, and a number of shipping companies, including the PMA itself and a number of PMA members. What these member companies share in common is their heavy dependence upon Pacific Rim shipping and their general anti-union attitudes. web page
400,000 International Port Workers Pledge Solidarity with West Coast ILWU: More than 200 leaders of dockworker unions worldwide pledged support for the ILWU in its bargaining with the PMA and signed a letter to President Bush demanding he stop interfering in the negotiations.
At its annual Congress in Vancouver , British Columbia last weekend, the International Transport Workers Federation Dockers Section, representing 400,000 dock workers in the sea transportation industry in 170 countries, passed a strongly worded resolution committing themselves to a successful conclusion to the ILWU's negotiation.
The ILWU's members may make their living primarily through manual labor, but their brains work just fine. They know a threat to their existence when they see one, and they have seen a big one throughout the summer from the White House .
Thanks Lic, first time I understood that.
This is a little interesting...I think this relates to the ILWU and their current negotiations. I think the ILWU is in a fight for its life...
A briefing from the OCA to a Senate committee noted that if seaports are creating opportunities for organized crime, it follows that they also create opportunities for terrorists.
The OCA says changes are needed, starting with criminal record checks of everyone who works on the docks.
Sounds like the media will be trying to turn the tables in support of any corporate or government actions against the dock workers. This could be a very critical fight which could produce grave consequences in regards to all workers.
Here is US political prisoner and death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal's take on the waterfront dispute...
War On The Waterfront?
by Mumia Abu-Jamal
August 18, 2002
In times of war, even one so nebulous as the "War On Terrorism", there are
wars within wars. Wars not merely fought abroad, but little, internal wars
of interests battling for dominance.
With the elevation of George W. Bush to the nation's highest office by
the Supreme Court, business interests know they have "their guy" in the
White House, and they are now trying to change the rules of the game, using
government muscle, and federal power, to threaten labor into compliance with
their bosses' interests. This can be seen clearest in the struggle between
the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA--the waterfront employers) and the
International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU--the unionized workers).
The PMA has allowed the labor contract to expire on July 1, 2002, and has
issued harsh demands to the unions, that would seriously undermine
long-standing, and hard-fought labor rights. The PMA wants to introduce new
technology into the shipping industry, which the ILWU has agreed to; but the
PMA wants to use these technologies to circumvent the time-honored union
hiring hall, a move that cuts into pivotal union power. The union hiring
hall didn't always exist; it came into being as a result of long, hard,
deadly struggles, organized not by union leaders, but by everyday
rank-and-file ILWU members, who pushed the Great Maritime Strike of 1934
into labor history.
Historian Howard Zinn writes:
"...[L]ongshoremen on the West Coast, in a rank-and-file
insurrection...held a convention, demanded the abolition of the shape-up (a
kind of early-morning slave market where work gangs were chosen for the
day), and went out on strike. Two thousand miles of coastline were quickly
tied up. The teamsters cooperated, refusing to truck cargo to the piers, and maritime
workers joined the strike. When the police moved in to open the piers, the
strikers resisted en masse, and two were killed by police gunfire. A mass
funeral procession for the strikers brought together tens of thousands of
supporters. And then a general strike was called in San Francisco, with
130,000 workers out, the city immobilized." [See Zinn, H., A Peoples History
of the United States, pp. 386-7].
While union organizers recall it was 6 strikers killed by cops, the point
remains that the hiring hall wasn't a gift bestowed by the bosses, but a
right won by blood and death. The PMA wants to computerize it away, to
distant points like Utah, Arizona, and even overseas!
Another tool of the wealthy owners has been the corporate press, which
has falsely portrayed the longshoremen as if they were pro baseball players,
making over $100,000 a year, when, in fact, their average wage is closer to
half that. While the ILWU quite rightly takes pride in the fact that it has
fought for decent wages for its members (over 70% of whom are
African-American or Latino in the San Francisco/Oakland ports), the PMA's
tactic is designed to stir up labor envy in the midst of a falling, and
Into this simmering labor conflict now comes "Unconstitutional Tom"
Ridge, the stone-faced Homeland Security Czar, and guess on who's side?
Czar Ridge placed a less-than-veiled threatening call to Jim Spinosa, ILWU
president. The message? A breakdown in talks (not to mention a strike!)
threatens "national security." Why isn't it ever that when a worker, or even
thousands of workers, faces job loss, that isn't a "national security"
threat? Why isn't job security "national security"? How is it in the
"interests" of a nation to abolish a hard-fought right that labor won
through terrible battle?
Despite the whines of the wealthy and the bloats of the corporate press,
the ILWU has every right to hold firm in the face of this state-managerial
assault on their glorious traditions.
The radical writer Randolph Bourne once observed, "War is the health of
the state." By this, he meant that governments accrue tremendous powers
during war, and rarely, if ever, return power to the people.
The ILWU should fight, and fight hard, in its noble tradition, against
this new-age "shape-up" scheme pushed at them by management, and threatened
by the Bush Regime. The ILWU, with the aid and assistance of sister unions,
can once again teach an historic lesson, that "Labor security is national
On Saturday, August 31, the parties reached agreement on health care issues. Unfortunately, the following day, talks broke down after the employers suddenly refused to honor their agreement of the prior evening unless the Union acceded to unacceptable changes in the contractual arbitration provisions. Since the expiration of the contract on July 1, the parties have operated the ports under a series of short-term extensions to the old contract. Most of these extensions have been for 24 hours, each expiring on 5 p.m. the next day. The last such extension was signed on August 31, and expired at 5 p.m. on Sunday, September 1. Consequently, there is currently no contract in place. Although the Union has not indicated what it intends to do, the employers have announced that if the Union initiates a work slowdown, the employees will be locked out. web page
From this report in the weekend Globe and Mail, it looks as though Canadians will be asked to jump on the paranoia bandwagon soon. The accusing finger is being pointed at Canadian dockworkers who, according to this report, are mostly organized criminals chomping at the bit to bring terrorists into the country.
If you read the article carefully, however, you will find not a single shred of hard evidence to support the hysterical hypothesis that is being put forward.
Beyond that, however, if indeed organized crime is aiding and abetting terrorists gain entry to Canada and the US, it would seem that our law enforcement agencies should be going after the leaders of the organized criminals. They won't find any of them working on the docks. They're more likey to find them rubbing elbows with politicians, business leaders, and even a union leader or two.
Consequently, there is currently no contract in place.
In Canada isn't a labour contract in force until it is either replaced or torn up. Is it not the same in the states?
Actually Collective Agreements do not automaticlly continue indefinitly in Canada . In most jurisdictions there is some method for the employer to terminate the agreement often if a lockout or strike occurs the agreement becomes null and void. Westfair did this in Manitoba when the LRB declared that the Wholesale club Store in Winnipeg was covered by the Western Grocers agreement Westfair locked the Store out for 24 hours and imposed new terms and conditions.
I stand to be corrected but I believe the only province in Canada where a contract cannot be terminated by any means is Saskatchewan
Most contracts have continuation language in them, and most jurisdictions have legislation requiring contracts to remain in force and effect after the expiry date. However, some contracts carry language that kills the contract when "notice" is served or when a strike or lock-out actually occurs.
According to the Los Angeles Times(may require registration)
As the Rev. Jesse Jackson led a boisterous union rally in Los Angeles supporting West Coast dockworkers, negotiators in San Francisco made substantial progress in closely watched contract talks on Thursday.
The longshore union and shipping lines signed a tentative agreement on health benefits, then dove into the difficult terrain of technology. Employers and union members have strongly different opinions about how to introduce technology needed to improve efficiency at the ports.
Representatives from both sides remarked on the improved tone of the talks, which began in May and broke down briefly over the Labor Day weekend.
"In my opinion, the glass is half full," said Joseph Miniace, president of the Pacific Maritime Assn., which is negotiating for major shipping lines. In a change from the last few months, Miniace said he would stay out of negotiating sessions, allowing committees to work out details.
In Los Angeles, Ramon Ponce de Leon, a member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union negotiating team, attributed progress to support from other unions and public officials. Ponce de Leon was with Jackson at the rally with union leaders and dockworkers at the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, where Jackson criticized White House officials for intervening in contract talks.
I truly believe the procurement of knowledge through the internet is going to be critical in the salvation of the power source. Never in history has information been so readily available and at such an unfathomable speed. Keeping the White House at bay during these negotiations is critical and the transference of information through MFD and other sites will hopefully make a difference! Thanks!
Although the ILWU has indicated that it will continue to work without a contract, the employers have announced that if the Union initiates a work slowdown, the employees will be locked out. No such lock out or other job action has yet occurred, although it could take place at any time. As if to throw fuel on the fire, the Bush administration, according to the Union, has reiterated its threat to use military force to seize the docks, stating that "it has assembled in San Diego trained Navy dock workers from bases around the world and have them ready to move on us."
At the 1518 GMM Limpright told the members the certification was on the location. (referring to the ofg/loman warehouse)
The ILWU has singled out one PMA member--Stevedoring Services of America (SSA)--as the primary force behind the PMA's intransigence and its unwillingness to share with its members' employees the gains achieved through the increased use of the new information technologies. As a result, the ILWU has announced that it will conduct a series of rallies targeted at SSA.
Additionally, according to the PMA, the ILWU has initiated an on-again, off-again slow-down at the ports of Long Beach and Oakland. The Union, for its part, denies that it has ordered any slowdown, but blames the problems at the two ports on mismanagement by the employers. In one case, the employer (SSA) had scheduled too few trained crane operators to handle the amount of freight, while in the other, the employer had imposed a last-minute change in the workers' lunch schedule in order to interfere with their attendance at a union rally, provoking a spontaneous walk-out to attend the scheduled demonstration. Nevertheless, the board of the PMA has authorized its president (who also happens to be the president of SSA) to take "defensive action" to counter the purported slowdown. This could mean anything from a lockout at all 29 West Coast ports (which the PMA has explicitly threatened) to requesting that the Bush administration make good on its threats either to impose an 80-day "cooling off" period under the Taft-Hartley Act, or to use military force to seize and operate the ports.
Dockworkers Avert Port Lockout
By SIMON AVERY, AP Business Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Plans for a lockout Friday morning at the nation's busiest port complex appeared to have been averted when dockworkers on the Thursday night shift began re-staffing operations at a terminal where activity had been frozen most of the week.
Representatives of employers at West Coast ports had threatened to lock out as many as 5,000 workers without pay, leaving millions of dollars of cargo on the docks because of a perceived work slowdown.
The Pacific Maritime Association, which has been negotiating a new contract with dockworkers since May, said Thursday a slowdown had "crippled" operations of one of its members - Stevedoring Services of America - at the Port of Long Beach.
On Thursday night, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union provided enough workers to unload ships at the docks in Long Beach, the PMA said.
"After a week of withholding labor, the union dispatched workers as PMA requested," said Joe Miniace, president and chief executive of the Pacific Maritime Association. "This is a positive sign, and I am hopeful this signals that the ILWU and PMA will be able to work together toward a new coastwide contract."
The PMA said it would suspend its planned shutdown of the Los Angeles and Long Beach port complex as long as operations continue at normal levels.
The PMA had accused the ILWU of withholding labor from Stevedoring Services' terminal since Monday, leaving thousands of containers unloaded and causing a traffic jam of trucks outside the complex.
The PMA, which represents 87 shipping companies and terminal operators, warned in May when negotiations began that it would not tolerate a work slowdown as it had before.
West Coast ports from San Diego to Seattle handle more than $300 billion worth of goods a year, which comprise more than 7 percent of the gross national product. Cargo ranges widely from automotive parts and toys to food and clothing.
The ILWU, which represents the 10,500 full-time West Coast dockworkers, denied Thursday that it had engaged in any slowdown.
ILWU spokesman Steve Stallone said the situation in Long Beach was the result of excess cargo and too few trained crane operators. He accused the PMA of manufacturing a crisis.
Stevedoring Services of America demands that skilled workers on its docks have a higher degree of training than other terminal operators require, he said.
"Basically, there just aren't enough people," Stallone said. "They are blowing a small, local dispute into a coastal issue."
He said the union rejected the PMA's offer of trying to settle the matter through arbitration - the standard method of resolving disputes under previous labor agreements - because workers no longer have a contract.
The last contract expired July 1. Both sides had agreed to extend it on a 24-hour basis, until talks temporarily broke down Sept. 1.
Both sides are stuck on the issue of bringing new technology to the docks. The PMA says the ports must be modernized to stay competitive. The ILWU says it will accept the advances if new positions are classified as union jobs.
Dock Workers Raise the Stakes and Risk of West Coast Port Shutdown
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union called on dockworkers to obey all safety rules yesterday, an action that shippers blamed for work slowdowns at Seattle and Tacoma ports and raised the possibility of a shutdown of West Coast ports.
Once again negotiations over a contract for 10,500 West Coast dockworkers stumbled yesterday. The union called on its members to decline double shifts and flexible starts, obey all speed limits and strictly adhere to safety rules.
The move threatens to slow ports just as goods arrive for the holiday shopping season. It also raises the stakes in already tense contract talks because employers have threatened to lock out Longshore workers in response to slowdowns.
The Pacific Maritime Association, representing shipping concerns, was to meet this morning to decide on its response.
"PMA member companies in Tacoma and Seattle are already seeing signs of a slowing of cargo movement in the wake of a public statement by the union that all but gives license to members to interrupt operations at shipping terminals," the association said in a statement.
The Longshore union accused the association of "bad faith bargaining." The union said greater safety was needed to respond to mounting cargo volumes and the death of several workers in the last six months on the West Coast.
The terminals are congested and increasingly dangerous as "more cargo has been moved recently than in any time in history," the union said. However, the Longshore union also pledged to move any military cargo without "difficulties or delay."
Far from safety worries, the shippers association said union leaders were trying to wreak havoc at the ports and already succeeded in backing up trucks for miles at terminal gates. Companies reported problems at the Maersk Sea-Land Terminal in Tacoma and Terminal 18 in Seattle, where most gate activity nearly came to a halt, according to Tom Edwards, a member of the employers' negotiating committee....... more
Dock workers have been locked out for doing work to rule...
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) The association representing shipping lines decided
Friday to lock out longshoremen at all West Coast ports until Sunday
morning as contract negotiations deteriorated.
The 36-hour ``cooling-off period,'' which will immediately curtail the
flow of goods across the nation, was announced after the Pacific Maritime
Association accused the longshoremen's union of slowing down the pace of
work as a tactic to gain leverage in increasingly acrimonious talks.
The association's board met Friday morning and unanimously agreed to
shutter the ports, according to president Joseph Miniace. The lockout was
scheduled to begin Friday evening.
Miniace called it ``a very, very tough decision,'' but one that the
association had to make because the union was bargaining in bad faith.
``It's the very last thing we wanted to do,'' Miniace said. ``But the
union forced us into this.''
A spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union said that
union negotiators wanted to keep talking. The union learned of the lockout
Friday morning from association negotiators when the two sides met for
``Miniace showed the same disrespect for the union he has since the
beginning of these talks,'' union president James Spinosa said. ``He is
unilaterally taking the action of closing all ports and bears full
responsibility for its effects on the American economy.''
The disruption could stanch the flow of products from Asia just as
importers are rushing to distribute goods for the holiday season. The
association has said that a coastwide labor disruption could cost the U.S.
economy around $1 billion per day. The ports handle more than $300 billion
in imports and exports each year.
``At this point we are hopeful the two parties will come back to the
bargaining table in good faith,'' Department of Labor spokeswoman Sue
Hensley said. ``We are monitoring this very closely.''
Word of the lockout prompted a federal mediator to fly in Friday to San
Every day the ports are shut takes about a week for kinks and backlogs in
the supply to get worked out, said Robin Lanier, whose West Coast
Waterfront Coalition represents importers and exporters. Lanier said if
the shutdown drags on, major retailers may find themselves without product
they've slated for special promotions.
The crisis was foreshadowed Thursday evening when the association said
longshoremen were slowing the pace of work at ports in Los Angeles,
Oakland, Portland, Ore., Seattle and Tacoma, Wash.
The union had issued a directive earlier Thursday telling the 10,500
workers it represents at all 29 major Pacific ports to work in strict
accordance with all safety and health rules.
The union says that five longshoremen have died in West Coast ports since
mid-March, and that the crush of cargo has made the docks an even more
chaotic and dangerous workplace.
Spinosa said work rates have hummed along at record levels in recent weeks
but that longshoremen wouldn't continue to cut corners and risk their
safety if the association wouldn't bargain in good faith.
The association has consistently said that if it determined workers were
slowing down their pace on purpose, there would be a lockout.
On Friday, the association reported that productivity in some ports had
dropped by as much as 90 percent.
In Oakland, the association said, one of the massive cranes that typically
unloads 30 containers each hour averaged just three containers overnight.
It cited other examples along the coast.
``ILWU members are effectively striking while working, causing the threat
of economic hardship on four million American workers whose livelihoods
depend on these ports, as well as the thousands of companies whose cargo
is being held hostage at the terminals,'' Miniace said.
The two sides have been bargaining over a new contract for months, but
talks have steadily deteriorated. The talks crumbled this week over the
question of how to implement new technology, an issue shipping lines have
stressed they must resolve before signing a new contract.
The union says it doesn't oppose new technology, but wants guarantees that
positions created by technological advances are union covered.
The association says a growth in trade will translate into more union jobs
over time, but the union shouldn't dictate that it gets every new job
created by new technology.
They are getting down to it now. I knew it was going to happen eventually. At least for now the govt. is deciding to remain out of negotiations but they have sent a representative to monitor the talks. A line will be drawn eventually and all of us must make a decision to honestly support the dock workers through every means available or just roll over and let these govt. supported mega-business' destroy another rung of the worker's ladder. I must say I'm concerned because of the failure of the AFL-CIO to take a bold stand on this issue. Their support is like a limp handshake! Definately not a firm stance for sure!
Between this issue and the one on Home Security, workers are being hit from all sides and are being labeled either arrogant money mongers intent on screwing up the nation's economy or unpatriotic citizens who place their own personal gains above national security. These ignorant accusations and propaganda that the political and corporate heads spew with wild abandonment is really an insult to the intelligence of the people!
What exactly do these government representatives do when they "monitor" negotiations? Up here we don't have any of this monitoring. Concilliators and mediators just get sent in to bang heads together to see if a deal can be had.
It would seem to me that having a government representative sitting around monitoring negotiations could have an inhibiting effect on the talks. Also, do they keep any kind of record of what's being discussed?
RV, I suppose "monitor" was a bad choice of words that I used. The federal government has actually dispatched a "mediator", although, at this time, it has indicated that it does not intend to intervene in the labor dispute and will permit the parties to continue to work out matters on their own. That's what I meant by "monitor". The mediator is there although at this point in time they are not mediating but only there for govt. leverage or as a threat so to speak. I agree, the fact that the govt. rep is there would seem to inhibit negotiations. As far as a record on the discussions, I am sure the minutes are being kept by the lawyers involved just for the legal aspect of negotiations. One side trying to prove the other side didn't bargain in good faith. If negotiations fail and the courts get involved, the minutes would eventually become public but I'm not sure how one could get a copy of what transpires unless the negotiators choose to publish a copy. BP may be able to shed some light on the negotiation practices. The parties are scheduled to resume talks on Monday, September 30.
Report from Tacoma:
Tonight In Tacoma Mearsk attempted to cover up a ship after locking us out.
Their first attempted was at about 5:15 PM. They decided not to continue
after about 200 ILWU Members showed up chanting OUR JOB, OUR JOB. Then at
9:00 PM they thought they would try it again until 100 ILWU Members showed up
again. After talking with leaders from Local #23 they decided that they
wanted to leave the terminal and go home. Of course they asked to be escorted
to their cars for they feared for their safety. After being escorted to their
cars they left the terminal to chants of ILWU,ILWU,ILWU,ILWU!!!!!
Brothers and Sisters keep an eye on your terminal to make sure these ^%$#@!&$
aren't trying something like this. They also moved some cans off the dock
before we got there. So on Saturday or Monday I will file formal complaints
with OSHA & WISHA for operating equipment without being certified or P. I. T.
Thanks Blackcat, this is great to see an actual report from one of the members at the docks. If you hear about any more, please post them.
My email box was full of ILWU stuff this morning from the IWW email list...thought that last post was quite interesting...
Hello, Goodbye. Lockout is on again.
Damned NYTimes. You'll have to register to access the link. If ya don't wanna, here's the story:
September 30, 2002
Companies Reinstate Lockout of Dockworkers
By CHARLIE LeDUFF
ILMINGTON, Calif., Sept. 29 - Longshoremen across the West Coast reported for work early this morning as shipping companies lifted a weekend lockout, but the lockout was almost immediately reimposed.
After it became apparent this morning that the longshoremen were staging a work stoppage of their own, the shipping companies locked them out. Company officials said they would not be ordering labor until the union at least agreed to work day by day under the old contract, in which work slowdowns are prohibited.
Management and union officials will meet tomorrow afternoon in San Francisco to try to work out a tentative agreement.
Economists warn that if work stops for more than a week, the consequences for both the national and international economy could be serious. West Coast ports are the busiest in the country. They handle more than 40 percent of the nation's seaborne cargo, valued at $320 billion a year, a large portion of it from Asia.
The companies said they had little choice in a labor dispute with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union that has now hit a wall.
"The union effectively shut down the terminals coastwide with their actions today," said Jason Greenwald, a spokesman for the shipping companies.
Mr. Greenwald said the action at the terminals was causing a ripple effect around the globe. Ships have missed their sail times, disrupting rail schedules and leaving valuable cargo idle on the docks.
Union officials, who represent 10,500 members, said they simply told their people to follow safety guidelines to the letter because the companies were bargaining in bad faith.
The first lockout, which began on Friday, was meant to send a message to union members and their negotiators that work slowdowns would not be tolerated in the increasingly bitter contract negotiations.
The union showed no signs of buckling this morning. Members did report to the halls, but work on the docks continued to go slowly.
Here in the Port of Los Angeles, more than a dozen superfreighters could be seen anchored offshore, their hulls lying deep in the water, laden with cargo. While a few crane gangs and forklift operators were working, it was nothing like the usual bustling workday on the piers.
Other ports along the coast sat idle because not enough union members were dispatched to work.
At issue is technology versus jobs. Shippers want new computers and machinery on the piers that would eliminate jobs.
Union representatives said they would accept the technology in exchange for a guarantee that current jobs and any new ones created by technological advances will be held by union members.
Longshoremen along the West Coast, whose average wage is about $80,000 a year, have been working without a contract since Sept. 1.
The companies accuse the union of orchestrating a coordinated slowdown at the 29 West Coast terminals to pry for leverage in the talks.
"All I can say is that our guys went to work today," Steve Stallone, a union spokesman, said.
Federal mediators flew to the West Coast on Friday, but it remains unclear what influence they have on the situation.
While the hiring hall was full in Wilmington this morning and men and women scanned the electronic tote boards for work, there was little enthusiasm for the labor. Posters on the wall read "Unity/Unidad." The mood brought to mind the pages of an Upton Sinclair novel.
"We're going back to work today and we're going to see how things go tomorrow," said Chris Ponce, the sergeant-at-arms for Local 13 here, in charge of keeping the peace in the hall. "We've got a union, and that makes us strong."
Report from Seattle:
I just got back from Terminal 5 in Seattle. There were a handful of folks,
some ILWU members and wobs. At about 7:30 a Union Pacific train pulled up
to the terminal gate, loaded with cans as far as the eyes could see, and
we approached. The driver gave the thumbs up and stopped. It sat for about
30 minutes and then he pulled it back to the yard, after taking a lot of
heat and threats from his boss. Score one for the workers. The drivetold
us that when they went through tacoma the bay was filled with ships.
There are no ships parked at T-5, but there are several (4) at T-18, where
the SSA shack is at. There is a picket there, and I imagine whatever goes
down will happen at T-18.
The latest rumor is that the PMA will end the lockout if the union agrees
to extend the old contract until May. It is clear that the employer is
disorganized and needs to buy time. I have no idea if this is actually the
case and if so how foks feel about it.
So, as for Seattle, I would suggest if wobs want to show up at 6am we will
want to be on Harbor Island at T-18. If wobs from other ports can give
specifics on where to be that will be helpful in boosting the numbers in
ILWU Negotiation Update: Sept. 30, 2002
ILWU workers remain locked out of West Coast ports by the PMA. We want to return to work as soon as possible. PMA has said for weeks that any work stoppage would have a severe impact on the national economy, and now it is the PMA which has taken the action to stop work at the ports.
Despite the lockout, ILWU workers are still working military cargo and passenger vessels. We have reached agreements up and down the coast with cruise lines to work their ships. In Tacoma, we are also working the TOTE vessels carrying cargo to Alaskans. ILWU Local 23 made a similar offer to CSX lines, formerly Sea-Land. CSX is the second major carrier of domestic and military cargo to Alaska. Maersk Pacific Stevedoring, a foreign owned company, employs the longshore workers who work the CSX ships. They refused the Local 23 proposal. ILWU Local 23 continues to make this offer to work the ships.
We were scheduled to meet with the PMA at 2 pm today. That meeting began when the PMA arrived at 3 pm. At that time, ILWU International President James Spinosa informed the PMA that we have exhausted the technology question due to the inability or unwillingness of the PMA to put together a unified proposal. Therefore, we left technology and presented our pension proposal, to which PMA indicated that they need more time to study.
The Director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services (FMCS) has scheduled a meeting with the ILWU and the PMA tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. The purpose of this meeting is for the Director to explain how the FMCS can be of assistance. The ILWU has made no decision thus far regarding the use of mediation.
AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL.
From the bosses computer to you...this is an email from a retail group that represents employers like Best Buy, Home Depot and Target...
Despite rumors that were flying yesterday (some of which you forwarded to me), it does appear that PMA and the the ILWU met yesterday for a short time, during which apparently the union backed away entirely from technology. So, it wasn't a meeting of the minds.
Also, apparently there is going to be some kind of meeting with the Federal mediator TODAY (not Thursday as first reported) at about 10:00 Pacific. At this meeting the mediator will let each side know what kinds of services are available. The union has not completely rejected mediation and I think the key is going to be how they respond today at this meeting. For this reason, I think my draft press release of yesterday may be old news by this afternoon and our conference call. If the union rejects mediation, I think we should just flat write a letter asking for Taft-Hartley and get a press release out by tomorrow morning (perhaps spending the money to put it out on the wires).
Now will the Canadian ILWU sell out its brothers to the south should this dispute drag on???
How about Mexico???
There will be a line drawn this time and hopefully organized labor will stand strong with the members of the ILWU in this war waging between these corporate giants and us. The bottom line is the fact this isn't only about the ILWU; it's about all of us who work for a living and our future. It's not some secluded fight between management and a labor union. The final outcome of this fight can either help solidify labor or it can go down in history as another victory of big business in their quest to control, manipulate, and oppress the workers of the world! The camel is overladen, overworked, and distraught. This could be the straw that breaks his back or this could produce an oasis for it to begin to rejuvinate for the journey ahead! An injury to one is an injury to all! The people have to realize this! I'm not referring to loyalty to a union, but loyalty to each other! Stand together or hang separately!
Under U.S. labor law, as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1965 ruling (American Ship Building Co. v. NLRB), employers can freely impose a lockout if its purpose "is merely to bring about a settlement of a labor dispute on favorable terms." During a lockout, an employer can also temporarily replace workers. The logic is that the lockout is a legal "economic weapon" that employers can use to counter the threat of a strike by employees.
There are conditions under which a lockout may be deemed illegal. For example, it is generally illegal for a company to lockout workers who are seeking to organize a union.
The current port lockout may be unjust. But in the eyes of law -- which are usually colored by the lenses of business -- it is in all probabilities totally legal, unless the union can prove that the lockout is "inherently destructive" of employee rights under the National Labor Relations Act.
Given Bush's overtures, it appears that the shipping companies have closed the ports as part of a strategy to justify federal intervention. Why would the PMA settle when it is likely to get an 80-day injunction ordered by the Bush administration? In fact, as some observers have noted, a mandatory 80-day cooling off period would allow the shipping companies to keep the ports open during their busiest time of year heading into the holiday season.
Faced with the possible threat of an intervention by the Bush administration, the ILWU is clearly in the midst of an extremely tough fight with the PMA.
The lockout has abruptly pushed the negotiations into the public arena. The ILWU must now keep its message focused and let the public know that the shipping companies are to blame for the effect the dispute is having on the economy.
The PMA is hoping that the lockout will weaken the union's resolve. But with a highly unified membership, solidarity throughout the labor movement, and public support, the ILWU should be able to win a fair settlement.
Demonstrating an apparent penchant for understatement, Director Hurtgen stated: "the presence of the security personnel [w]as inappropriate and a breach of bargaining protocol particularly when the meeting is under the auspices of the FMCS." The PMA, in yet one more boneheaded miscalculation, seems incapable of issuing a simple apology for its affront. Although direct talks had been scheduled to resume on Wednesday, October 2, that meeting has been cancelled and it is not clear when the parties will again meet, or whether efforts at mediation will go forward.
Maybe things work differently on the West Coast, but if anyone here in Washington, D.C. were to show up at a government office for a meeting with federal officials accompanied by armed guards, they would be arrested. Moreover, had it been the ILWU delegation that had shown up armed, can there be any doubt that they would now be in prison, and we would all be deafened by the hue and cry of the employers and the Bush administration about union thuggery and intimidation?
Scab Cargo going through Vancouver Port!
So now the question is what is the ilwu.ca going to do about it???
The nation's top labor leaders vigorously urged the president not to invoke Taft-Hartley. James P. Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the union that Republicans are courting most vigorously, said, "We strongly oppose any decision to impose Taft-Hartley in this situation or the use of federal troops to replace the locked-out workers. Such actions would be viewed as open union-busting by the Teamsters and all of labor."
Richard Trumka, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.'s secretary-treasurer, said that the labor federation "is opposed to government intervention in the lockout at the West Coast ports."
New York Times
The AFL-CIO sound like wimps in their support of ILWU! I can hear them now on the school grounds in D.C. "I'll tell my Daddy on you Mr. President if you impose the Taft-Hartley!" Good grief, at least Hoffa says he STRONGLY opposes the Taft-Hartley and that if the president utilizes T/H, he will consider it union-busting. When is the AFL-CIO going to make a stand? They should be organizing support for the dock workers and supplying information to all the internationals to share with all their local unions. It's time to get some balls and make the right decision!
The following is part of the Working Families e-Activist Network e-activism campaign directed toward the chairman and the vice-chairman of the National Retail Federation who are part of the coalition against the dockworkers.
Through the National Retail Federation and another group called the West Coast Waterfront Coalition, major brand-name companies are urging President George W. Bush to intervene in the lockout of 10,000 West Coast dockworkers. Gordon Segal, CEO of Crate&Barrel, is chairman of the NRF. Andrew Zetcher, President and CEO of Talbots, is a vice chairman. The Bush administration hasn't ruled out the use of troops to replace dockworkers. Take one minute to help these dockworkers. Fax Gordon Segal and Andrew Zetcher and tell them to help end the lockout and oppose government intervention.
Well, it seems the docks will innevitably be reopened through the Taft-Hartley Act by the US government. The following article tells the story of how PMA hasn't bargained in good faith even though the ILWU has made continuous efforts to extend their existing contract!
WHY WILL DOCKWORKERS NOT SIGN A CONTRACT EXTENSION?
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- One stroke of the pen. That's all it will take to open West Coast ports. The ports remain closed because the International Longshore and Warehouse Union has refused to extend the contract it worked under for three years.
On Sunday, October 6, in response to the repeated requests of the federal mediator, the ILWU called the PMA's bluff and agreed to sign a seven-day contract extension. Yet again, the union agreed to exactly what the employers said they wanted. So why are the ports not open? Once again, the PMA changed its mind. After the union agreed to what the employers said they wanted, the employers no longer wanted it. In a repeat of what happened early in the negotiations when the employers claimed that implementation of the new technologies was their goal, the PMA changed its mind after the union agreed to accept that proposal. Is this another example of PMA duplicity, or are the employers just stupid? Unfortunately, both answers are equally plausible.
Despite the PMA's continually shifting positions, the ILWU has indicated that it remains prepared to resume negotiations. The PMA, however, has rejected further talks, and no new meetings are scheduled.
In the absence of ongoing talks, direct federal intervention now appears inevitable and, on Monday, October 7, the administration took the first step in that direction by appointing a "board of inquiry." The members of the board are former Senator and Secretary of Labor Bill Brock, Professor Patrick Hardin of the University of Tennessee College of Law, and Professor Dennis Nolan of the University of South Carolina School of Law. The board held a closed hearing at which it heard statements from both the ILWU and the PMA. On Tuesday, October 8, the board reported back that the bargaining atmosphere had been poisoned and that the parties were not likely to settle the dispute any time soon on their own. This left the administration free to seek a court order ending the lockout.
In order to avoid the necessity for court action, the Union for a second time offered to give the PMA what it wanted--a short term extension of the old contract, this time for thirty days. Once again, the PMA rejected this offer. Late Tuesday, October 8, the Department of Justice filed an action in the U.S. District Court for the District of San Francisco seeking to invoke the provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act to end the lockout. A decision is expected shortly. web page
Now after Taft-Hartley gets past...couldn't they still work-to-rule? How can the union get fined for following safety procedures?
Blackcat, I asked the same question and this is the answer I received from Paul Green, labor law attorney from Mooney, Green, Baker out of D.C.
The current TRO, and any future injunction implementing a Taft-Hartley "cooling-off" period are court orders. Violations of a court order are subject to sanctions for contempt of court. Civil contempt can result in the imposition of fines, set in the court's discretion, or even imprisonment, until the contempt is "purged" (i.e., the person charged with contempt stops committing the contemptuous acts). Criminal contempt is punishable by fines and/or imprisonment as well. Therefore, the answer to your question depends upon the terms of the order and the inclination of the judge. It is my understanding that the judge has already verbally warned the union not to engage in a slowdown. Therefore, he very well may impose sanctions for contempt if a slowdown occurs.
It may be that a "work to rule" action can be defended as nothing more than adhering to federally-mandated standards, which as a matter of public policy cannot be punishable. To answer this better, I would need to see the terms of the order, the text of the rules, and the language of the contract. Nevertheless, if I were to appear in front of a judge explaining why I violated his order by "working to the rule," I would bring a toothbrush and a checkbook.
In order to avoid the necessity for court action, the federal mediator requested that the parties agree to a 30-day extension to the old contract. Although the ILWU agreed, once again, the PMA said no. Late Tuesday, October 8, the Department of Justice filed an action in the U.S. District Court for the District of San Francisco seeking to invoke the provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act to end the lockout. The court quickly issued an ex parte Temporary Restraining Order ("TRO") (meaning that the order was issued solely based upon the government's papers and representations, and that the ILWU was not afforded the opportunity to be heard) requiring the reopening of the ports, containing the following provisions:
ORDERED that [the PMA and ILWU] are hereby enjoined and restrained from in any manner continuing, encouraging, ordering, permitting, aiding, engaging in, or taking any part in any strike or lockout in the maritime industry of the United States; and it is further
ORDERED that [the PMA and ILWU] are hereby enjoined and restrained from in any manner interfering with or affecting the orderly continuance of work in the maritime industry, at a normal and reasonable rate of speed, and in accordance with the wages, benefits, and terms and conditions of employment provided under the most recent collective bargaining agreement between defendants, the terms and conditions of which shall continue in full force and effect . . . ; and it is further
* * *
ORDERED that all the defendants shall engage in free collective bargaining in good faith for the purpose of resolving their disputes and to make every effort to adjust and settle their differences . . . .
The TRO is effective until 5 p.m. on October 16. The court has scheduled a hearing for 3 p.m. that same day to determine whether to enter a back-to-work order for the full 80-day cooling-off period. In response to the order, the PMA instructed its members to recall its workers beginning with the 6 p.m. shift on Wednesday, October 9. As of now, the ports are open and work has resumed.
The PMA has not hidden the fact that it prefers to open the ports under judicial compulsion rather than pursuant to a voluntary agreement so that it can invoke the power of the court to impose contempt citations (which could include fines or imprisonment) in the event the ILWU stages a work slowdown. The ILWU, for its part, denies that it has ever staged a slowdown. Instead, it points to deteriorating safety conditions (with five fatalities on the docks already this year--more than twice as many as in previous years), only made worse by the exceptional crush of freight that is now backed-up at the ports, and contends that all it has done is to advise its members to comply with state and federal safety standards. Already, the port employers have begun to complain about the lack of productivity on the docks, and it is expected that they will be in court very soon to seek to have the union held in contempt.
Reduced Productivity -vs- Worker Safety
The following update concerning the dockworkers' current position on the docks is from Paul Green.
Indeed, the employers have already begun their chorus of complaints about reduced productivity on the docks. The ILWU, for its part, denies that it has ever staged a slowdown. Instead, it points to deteriorating safety conditions (with five ILWU workers killed this year already, along with two other non-ILWU dockworkers, compared with a total of one killed in the prior two years, only made worse by the exceptional crush of freight that is now backed-up at the ports, and contends that all it has done is to advise its members to comply with state and federal safety standards. Already, notes the ILWU, there have been three separate accidents since the docks reopened, including the electrocution of a mechanic who remains hospitalized. The ILWU has asked the PMA to train and hire more dockworkers to facilitate the movement of freight, stating that there simply aren't enough trained workers to safely handle the flow of freight. To avoid any suggestion of a slowdown, the ILWU has asked that safety inspectors be placed on the docks to monitor conditions. The PMA, for its part, claims that there is no safety problem, and that it is incumbent upon their employees to work faster and safer. It is likely that the PMA will be in court next week seeking contempt sanctions against the ILWU, accusing them of staging a slowdown.
Recognizing that they were very unlikely to prevent the imposition of an injunction by the court, the ILWU has agreed with the government and the PMA to voluntarily extend the "cooling off" period for the full 80 days. Whether this means that the ILWU and PMA have simply agreed to an 80-day extension to the expired contract, or whether they have agreed to the entry of a consent order, leaving the parties subject to the jurisdiction of the court, remains unclear.
One of the stated reasons for invoking Taft-Hartley was to facilitate the resumption of negotiators. To that end, FMCS chief Hurtgen has been attempting to get the parties to resume negotiations, and has been seeking to set up talks next week. The Union expects to begin talks with Hurtgen on Wednesday, October 16. The PMA, however, has refused to talk to Hurtgen at least until the next weekend.
Sounds to me like the employers are trying to deflect attention from unsafe working conditions by going on and on about productivity - and call any attempt by the workers to resist jeopardizing their safety a slowdown. The tactics being used in this dispute are becoming more draconian as the days pass.
As the PMA continues to spew forth more and more accusations of orchestrated work slowdowns by the ILWU, they make it clear exactly what it is they want the Justice Department to do. They want the Federal Judge to force the workers to ignore the safety factors at the docks and pick up the pace! PMA's lockout of the ports is what created the fiasco at the docks and now they want to place all the blame on the workers and the sacrifice of worker safety is a small price for them to pay! But now a new light on this situation and the role that U.S. Labor Secretary, Elaine Chao plays has come into view! Does the Secretary of Labor have ulterior motives for wanting the dockworkers back to work?
Paul Green updates us on how the PMA is deliberately withholding trained employees from the docks in order to build a case against the ILWU and much more......
The ILWU contends that the shortage of trained employees at the ports is the result of a deliberate effort by the employers to provoke sanctions against the union. In addition to the the PMA's refusal to train and employ sufficient numbers of trained longshoremen, the ILWU notes that the "work orders" issued by PMA employers, in which they list workers requested to fill specific jobs, include names of employees who either have transferred to different jobs, retired or died. For example, at the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex, one-in-four of the "qualified" crane operators requested by the employers for work were either dead or retired. Similarly, at the Seattle port, the ILWU notes that the PMA's leading member, SSA, had neglected to recall 26 of the 44 on-call crane operators. Alleging that these actions amount to unfair labor practices, the ILWU has filed NLRB charges against the PMA. The PMA, for its part, intends to provide attorneys for the government with "evidence" of an orchestrated slowdown in an effort to get the government to seek sanctions against the ILWU in court.
In another interesting example of the employers' unfettered greed and short-sightedness, they have begun to charge trucking and shipping companies additional rent and penalties for their failure to timely return shipping containers and other equipment used in the transport of freight, even though the only reason the equipment was not returned on time was because the employers themselves had shut down the docks.
Recognizing that they were very unlikely to prevent the imposition of a Taft-Hartley injunction by the court, the ILWU agreed to the entry of an order converting the Temporary Restraining Order (quoted above) to a Preliminary Injunction that will remain in effect for the full period permitted under the Taft-Hartley Act (normally 80 days), unless terminated earlier by the court. On October 16, in entering the stipulated order, the court made a series of findings. First, it concluded that the lockout (and any potential strike) created a "national emergency," justifying the invocation of the Taft-Hartley Act. Second, it rejected the ILWU's charge of collusion between the PMA and the Bush administration, both as speculation and as irrelevant, noting that, even if true, everyone has the right to petition the government to act, and the government's political motivations are not relevant. Third, it rejected the ILWU's contention that the order was unnecessary because the lockout was already collapsing of its own weight, concluding that this argument was also speculative, and did not effect the fact that the Taft-Hartley standards had been met. Finally, the court determined that the plain language of the Taft-Hartley Act gave it the power to enter an order prohibiting even a potential strike or slow-down, although none had actually been threatened.
One of the government's stated reasons for invoking Taft-Hartley was to facilitate the resumption of negotiations. To that end, FMCS chief Hurtgen has been attempting to get the parties to resume talks as quickly as possible. The Union met with Hurtgen on Wednesday, October 16, to discuss the resumption of negotiations. The PMA, however, , prefers instead to focus upon its game of harassing the ILWU by whining to the media and the government and seeking sanctions against the union. As a result, negotiations are not set to resume until next Thursday.
The Pacific Maritime Association is being accused by the ILWU of violating the court order to comply with the terms of the expired contract. The PMA refuses to invoke contractual grievance procedures and instead chooses to complain to the government, the court, and the media.
The language in the contract between the ILWU and PMA states..." The grievance procedure of this Agreement shall be the exclusive remedy with respect to any disputes between the Union . . . and the [PMA] or any employer . . . and no other remedies shall be utilized by any person with respect to any dispute involving this Agreement until the grievance procedure has been exhausted."
It seems the government attorneys are buying into PMAs claims of an organized slowdown by the ILWU and they have indicated they do not believe the contractual grievance procedures apply to this dispute. The government attorneys have also indicated they will seek sanctions from the court possibly as early as next week concerning PMAs claims of an organized slowdown. The ILWU, for its part, complained that it was at a disadvantage in formulating its response, since it did not have access to the charges and "evidence" to which it was responding, despite its repeated requests.
From Paul Green's Labor Page:
As we previously reported, following the resumption of negotiations, the parties remained quiet about their progress (or lack thereof), leading us to the conclusion they must be making headway. As it turns out, our inference was correct. With the assistance and support of AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Rich Trumka, at 4 a.m. on Friday, November 1, 2002, the parties reached agreement on the prickliest issue before them--the implementation of the new information technologies and the effect of those technologies on the ILWU's jurisdiction. In the words of FMCS Director Hurtgen:
Although a final agreement has not been reached, . . . [the] ILWU and PMA [have reached] a tentative agreement concerning the key issues of new technology and retention of union's jurisdiction for marine clerk work.
Notwithstanding the partial tentative agreement, bitterness remains over the government's role in the dispute and its obvious bias toward the PMA's position. The ILWU has made a Freedom of Information Act request for documents that would provide evidence of the government's collaboration with the employers to undermine the Union. Additionally, the ILWU has asked that Attorney General Ashcroft direct the Justice Department to "conduct a full investigation into the apparent collusion between certain officials of the Federal government and officials of various shipping companies and associations" to determine whether "discussions between government and business officials crossed the legal and ethical line from lobbying to actual joint planning and coordinated actions to affect the outcome of contract negotiations between the ILWU and the PMA on the West Coast." Yeah, like that's going to happen.
The same press blackout that applied to the progress of the negotiations continues with regard to the content of the tentative partial agreement, other than the Union's comment that the PMA had met its bottom line position. As the result of the blackout, of course, details of the agreement remain sketchy. According to published reports, the parties have agreed that the ILWU's jurisdiction would be extended to cover planning jobs on the docks and in the rail yards, but not to planning jobs on board vessels.
While difficult issues remain to be resolved, including such matters as pensions, wages, health and safety, and the PMA's proposal to change the current system for arbitrating disputes, with the most vexing issues now behind them, it seems likely that a final resolution will be reached shortly (although the Union has indicated it will likely take at least a week of additional negotiations). Talks resumed on Friday, November 1, and are expected to continue on a daily basis until the remaining issues are settled.
US longshore officials cave in to West Coast shippers' anti-union demands
The leadership of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) last week agreed to the main concessionary demands put forward by West Coast shipping companies in the protracted negotiations for a new contract.
While other contract issues remain to be settled, an agreement was reached between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) on the introduction of labor-saving technology. The deal, announced by the director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service on November 1, will mean the destruction of some 1,000 jobs and further attacks on dockworkers' working conditions and living standards.
The technology agreement suggests that the two sides will announce a contract package in the coming days. Any such agreement must go to the rank and file for a ratification vote.
Having already secured an accord on health care provisions, the parties are scheduled to begin discussions on the question of pension benefits on November 13.
The deal reached on Friday resolves, in the PMA's favor, the terms under which new computerized technologies will be introduced on the docks. These computer-based techniques track the movement of shipping containers from the beginning of their trip to their final destination, employing bar codes and scanners to collect data, thereby moving cargo through the ports at much faster speeds. Although the ILWU leaders had already consented to the elimination of hundreds of union jobs, they had insisted that new jobs created by the introduction of the computer technology remain under union jurisdiction.
The ILWU negotiators have now surrendered on this key issue, giving up union representation for newly created clerical positions. Nonunion personnel will now do these so-called 'planning' jobs. In addition, the union dropped a demand for maintaining certain minimum manning levels for some operations.
For months the union leadership had been assuring longshore workers that it would not give in on the technology issue. In an attempt to avert or minimize a conflict with the rank and file over this reversal, the bureaucracy is demanding that some of the revenues from the new technology be set aside for improvements in pensions, including an early retirement option.
This is a calculated and cynical move to curry support for the deal from older workers-the most senior and highest-paid section of longshoremen, many of whom are close to retirement-in essence, urging them to place their individual self-interest ahead of class solidarity and the interests of dockworkers as a whole. It will create a two-tiered labor force in which older workers, whose jobs will gradually disappear through retirement, retain the benefits of union-negotiated pensions, while a new layer of younger workers is brought on board without many of the conditions that longshoremen fought for over many decades.
The consequences of the agreement go far beyond the initial loss of jobs and introduction of nonunion clerks. The increasing use of nonunion workers will weaken the traditional ability of the union to intervene in what up to now have been routine matters, such as health and safety and the assignment of jobs through the hiring hall.
ILWU workers have faced the direct collusion of the Bush administration with the shippers. Early in the negotiations, Bush officials told the ILWU that the administration was prepared to order troops onto the docks in the event of a strike or work action. The PMA utilized the de facto support of the federal government to assume a provocative posture in the negotiations, demanding massive concessions and, in general, making sure that the talks dragged on without a resolution.
Finally, on September 29, the PMA imposed a lockout, which served as the pretext for the White House to intervene under the anti-union provisions of the Taft-Hartley law. In early October, Bush invoked Taft-Hartley with the full agreement of the shippers and after consulting with other sections of big business. Under a federal court injunction ending the lockout, the union and longshore workers were ordered to resume full work schedules without any slowdowns or work actions. The White House intervention placed the full weight of the federal government behind the demands of the shippers, with the threat of financial and criminal sanctions against the ILWU.
In mid-October the PMA initiated legal action for the imposition of such sanctions, formally complaining to the Justice Department that the union was conducting a slowdown and accusing it of being in 'noncompliance' with Taft-Hartley.
Ultimately, the ILWU leadership capitulated to the PMA because to wage a struggle would have entailed a direct challenge to the Bush administration. This would have immediately exposed the fraud of supposed Democratic 'support' for the longshoremen, and it would have required a genuine struggle to mobilize the working class nationally and internationally behind the West Cost dock workers.
In this betrayal, the AFL-CIO has played a central role. Once again, as in scores of previous struggles over the past two decades, the national union federation made sure that an embattled section of workers remained isolated, while it worked to broker a sellout deal. AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka played a direct role in the most recent talks between the ILWU and the PMA.
AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka played a direct role in the most recent talks between the ILWU and the PMA.
IMHO, this is the primary reason of the outcome of the talks. Again, the politics and concession agendas utilized by the international reps has helped destroy another aspect of the working people and solidarity is lost!
The ILWU announced Saturday that it has reached a landmark agreement with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) that will benefit workers, the shipping industry, consumers and our economy. ILWU leaders urged ratification of the proposed agreement, saying that it upholds the core principles the ILWU brought to the negotiating table.
Both sides are praising this agreement but both sides say they expect the new technology, which PMA plans to introduce to the docks, will lead to around 400 to 500 job losses. So it seems the agreement is a victory for some and a tragedy for others! Again, workers must be sacrificed in the name of "The Big Picture!"
A historic conference focused on repealing the 1940's Union BustingTaft-Hartley Act was just held in San Francisco. Labor activists from ILWU, and others from around the globe, met to share insights and strategies designed to overturn one of the most repressive anti-labor laws ever crafted by Congress.
View streaming video at this site here.
PS - Check out "Organizing the unorganized" vid. Very good.
From the IWW email list...
Dockworkers throughout Europe are striking tomorrow January 17 against a measure by the European Union which will enable shipowners and terminal operators to hire whomever they want to load and unload their ships. They call it "self-handling", but it should be called "scab-handling". It would mean that any labor contract isn't worth the paper it's written on. If this measure is implemented, it will surely mean the destruction of dockworkers unions, first in Europe and then, in a ripple effect around the world. This measure could lead the WTO to absurdly rule that a labor contract is a "restraint of trade." Also the ILA is going into contract negotiations this year and is preparing for much of the same kind of all-sided attack that we in the ILWU faced. We can not be deluded into thinking that an overwhelming contract ratification vote means that we'll be protected for six more years. Nothing could be further from the truth. The attacks against dockworkers in Europe and on the East Coast of the U.S. will effect us on the West Coast. We must be prepared to do - as we did for the Liverpool dockers, the Australian wharfies and the Charleston longshoremen - whatever is necessary to defend our brothers and sisters!
As we say in Local 10, "'Nuff said!"
Thanks Blackcat, this is definately an interesting situation and it definately creates a world wide need for support of these dockworkers as it seems there is a world wide agenda to destroy the presence of any and all union dockworkers.