ilwu

Victory? Inching toward possible agreement between ILWU & EGT

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by Adam Rothstein

***We’ve heard conflicting statements about the accuracy of the original article. The article below reflects our most current knowledge. We’re awaiting updates and will report as soon as they are available.***

Sources close to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 21 in Longview, Washington say that West Coast Occupations and all friends of the 99% should be “cautiously optimistic” about the future of the struggle in Longview. A vote taken in Longview today was not on the official contract, but was only on a tentative agreement. Now the union and EGT will engage in collective bargaining before any contract is put forward to the membership for ratification. All information about the contract and the negotiations are confidential and confirmation on any details has not been officially released by Local 21.

The organizers of Solidarity with Longview Working Group from across the West Coast say that they are optimistic about the possible outcome for the workers and the community of Longview but that they will not stand down until there is 100% confirmation on the contract details and outcome of the vote from the rank-and-file of Local 21. It is unclear when the union will release details, but collective bargaining is often a lengthy process.

If the contract is passed by the rank and file, this is expected to conclude a strike action against the EGT grain terminal in Longview which had been ongoing for several months. The working agreement between the Port and ILWU Local 21 already had established that all cargo handling and equipment maintenance performed on Port property will be by ILWU labor. When EGT came to Longview to build the first grain terminal in the US in 20 years, the Port and EGT touted the project as a creator of local jobs and tax revenue. During construction, EGT hired workers from out of state and paid sub-standard wages. EGT received tax dollars to finance the $200 million grain terminal.

EGT demanded wages below ILWU standards, no time and a half for overtime, and reduced safety procedures during its previously unsuccessful negotiation with the ILWU. Then EGT hired a third party, General Construction Co, to develop a contract with a different union, which accepted its terms.

In addition to the resilient actions of the ILWU strikers, the workers were joined in solidarity the last two months by activists from the Occupy movements in various cities, including Portland, Seattle, Longview, and Oakland. Under the organizing banner of “Solidarity with Longview”, these activists were preparing a caravan to join in the blockade of a grain ship intended to break the strike.

Information indicated that the ship was near the Columbia River, and was scheduled to dock at the port in the next several days. The pressure that the impending blockade action had upon the corporation is undeniable: in the last weeks, it was discovered that the Coast Guard, under the authority of the Department of Homeland Security, created a security zone around the port to attempt to ensure the loading could progress unhindered. After Occupy activists from these cities succeeded in blocking port terminals in their cities on December 12th, it was made clear that Occupy stands in solidarity with labor on these issues, and was willing to fight along side unions to defend the rights of collective bargaining, in order to win a living wage and workplace standards for all workers.

While the details of the negotiations are not known, Occupiers will continue to organize in the event of either continuing the struggle or to celebrating with the community of Longview.

We will update this story with more details and statements from both Occupy the EGT and the ILWU, as soon as they are available.

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(Video) ILWU Local 10 Longshore Workers Speak-Out At Oakland Port Shutdown

"Don’t let anybody quote an International spokesperson for ILWU and tell you what "the union" thinks about the West Coast port shutdown."

ILWU Local 10 longshore workers speak out during a blockade of the Port of Oakland called for by Occupy Oakland. Anthony Levieges and Clarence Thomas rank and file members of the union. The action took place on December 12, 2011 and the interview took place at Pier 30 on the Oakland docks.

Dear member of the Left.  Obama is far from perfect, but at least he’s formed a National Labor Relations Board that seems to actually give a shit about workers rights.  Not saying everyone should put on their Obama cheerleader uniform and go join Organizing For American, but it is nice to see the government be on the side of the little guy once in awhile.

December 01, 2011

Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-273-1991
publicinfo@nlrb.gov
www.nlrb.gov

In the latest round of a long-running legal battle over a union organizing campaign, a U.S. District Court has found a Waikiki hotel in civil contempt for failing to comply with an earlier court order to bargain with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 1420. 

The Nov. 29 contempt ruling by U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright (District of Hawaii), comes just a week after the judge granted a second injunction against the hotel at the Board’s request. Judge Seabright issued the first injunction in March, 2010.

The judge found HTH Corporation, Pacific Beach Corporation, and Koa Management, doing business as the Pacific Beach Hotel, and its Regional Vice President of Operations, Robert Minicola, in contempt for having violated his 2010 injunction. 

The court found that the hotel and related entities failed to act in good faith to take reasonable steps to comply with the 2010 injunction by, among other things: 1) for the second time, disciplining and firing a member of the union’s bargaining committee; 2) raising the number of rooms housekeepers must clean each day, without bargaining with the union; and 3) refusing to provide the union with information needed to bargain, including financial information to support the hotel’s claim of “poverty.” 

The court ordered the Hotel to pay backpay to the terminated bargaining committee member, and to reimburse the Board and the Union for costs and fees incurred in successfully seeking contempt sanctions. Under the order, hotel vice-president Minicola must read the contempt order aloud to a gathering of employees. “The court agrees that these steps are necessary to implement the Contempt Order and also make Hotel employees aware that (1) Respondents violated the March 29, 2010 Injunction; and (2) Respondents are held in contempt for their violations,” Judge Seabright wrote.

The conduct that formed the basis of the contempt finding also was the subject of a decision issued by NLRB Administrative Law Judge John J. McCarrick on September 13, 2011, finding that Respondents violated the National Labor Relations Act in all respects alleged.  That decision is now pending before the Board for review.  Earlier this year, the Board found that the Hotel had violated the Act in numerous respects, forming the basis for the court’s March 2010 injunction.  The Board’s order is now pending enforcement in a federal appeals court.

“We appreciate the court’s patience and diligence in bringing this recidivist employer to justice,” said NLRB Regional Director Joseph Frankl. “Today’s decision shows that a steep price is to be paid by those who willfully and continually flout judicial orders and trample on the rights of employees.”

It was the calm before the storm early Wednesday morning at the Occupy Oakland tent city, the day of a planned general strike expected to draw thousands to the city’s downtown.

As the day began, occupants of the encampment were starting to rise and a half-dozen news agencies had already gathered. Some groups were starting to put together signs and outfitting a truck with speakers.

Some Oakland businesses were showing their support for the strike. The Men’s Wearhouse in the Rotunda Building posted a sign in the window saying “We stand with the 99%. Closed Wednesday, Nov. 2.” The venerable Grand Lake Theater, never one to shy away from political cause, also shut down today, with its marquee saying “We proudly support the Occupy Wall Streeet movement, closed Wednesday in support of the strike.”

Today’s planned strike will be the first of its kind since in Oakland since 1946, and it could potentially turn out to be the biggest demonstration in the East Bay since the Vietnam War.

The demonstration aims to shut down the city by targeting banks, corporations and the Port of Oakland in solidarity with worldwide Occupy movement that decries the economic wealth of the very rich 1 percent while 99 percent of the population struggles to find jobs and pay the bills.

And there is an Oakland twist to today’s action, with a call to “end police attacks on our communities and defend Oakland schools and libraries (against budget cuts).

UPDATED: EGT to Potentially Settle Contract with ILWU

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by Adam Rothstein

UPDATE:Occupy the EGT has put out a press release, acknowledging the possibility of a settlement. According to the statement, “Anonymous sources indicate that President McElrath [of the ILWU] has negotiated a tentative agreement, which states that no work at the terminal in Longview will be performed until a labor agreement is reached.” The release then highlights that the caravan to blockade the port will continue its preparations, to ensure that the agreement is reached and EGT maintains this direction of compromise.

The release also mentioned EGT’s parent company, Bunge, and their history of violations of labor and tax law, their bad history with unions around the world, and other unscrupulous activities such as rain forest destruction and contemporary slave labor. Occupy Portland organizer Kari Koch was quoted as saying, “The Occupy Movement engages in new forms of struggle in the interest of the working class in the US and around the world. We will continue to put pressure on EGT and their parent company Bunge Ltd until the rank-and-file workers’ have seen some justice. Beyond this labor struggle, we will still work to hold Bunge Ltd. accountable for their despicable labor and environmental record around the world. Bunge’s actions are not unique; this is symptomatic of larger problems with our economic system.”

Sources at Occupy Longview report that EGT, the owner of a new terminal at the Port of Longview, has reached a tentative settlement with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, as a result of a planned boycott and blockage of an upcoming grain ship scheduled to arrive at the port.

Information indicates that the ship is near the Columbia River now, and was scheduled to dock at the port in the next several days. A coalition of Occupy groups including Portland, Oakland, and Longview were planning a major action in solidarity with the ILWU to block the ship from loading at the terminal, until EGT agreed to honor the contract ILWU has with the Port of Longview. The pressure that this impending action had upon the corporation is undeniable: in the last weeks, it was discovered that the Coast Guard, under the authority of the Department of Homeland Security, created a security zone around the port to attempt to ensure the loading could progress unhindered. A major caravan of Occupiers from Portland and Oakland were ready at a moment’s notice to travel to Longview to support the blockade, waiting on notice of the ship’s arrival. After Occupy activists from these cities succeeded in blocking port terminals in their cities on December 12th, it was made clear that Occupy stands in solidarity with labor on these issues, and was willing to fight along side unions to defend the rights of collective bargaining, in order to win a living wage and workplace standards for all workers.

The working agreement between the Port and ILWU Local 21 establishes that all cargo handling and equipment maintenance performed on Port property will be by ILWU labor. When EGT came to Longview to build the first grain terminal in the US in 20 years, the Port and EGT touted the project as a creator of local jobs and tax revenue. During construction, EGT hired workers from out of state and paid sub-standard wages. EGT received tax dollars to finance the $200M grain terminal.

EGT demanded wages below ILWU standards, no time and a half for overtime, and reduced safety procedures during its unsuccessful negotiation with the ILWU. Then EGT hired a third party, General Construction Co, to develop a contract with a different union, which accepted its terms. The ILWU has been picketing the new grain terminal for months, demanding that EGT honor the terms of the Port’s contract with the union.

While the details of the agreement between EGT and the union are not yet known, the fact of the settlement was announced by Washington Governor Chris Gregoire, and was posted on the EGT website.

It is important to note that this agreement is only temporary, until the membership of the union has a chance to vote on it. For now, the mobilization to blockade the Port of Longview is holding in readiness, awaiting the decision by the workers.

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VIDEO: Japanese Railway Workers Support Dockers Half a World Away

Railway unionists in Tokyo yesterday protested a lockout nearly 5,000 miles away, of American dockworkers who load grain onto ships headed for Asia. With signs calling the aggressive employer a “Merchant of Death,” Japanese workers rallied outside the headquarters of Marubeni, owner of Columbia Grain, which locked out members of Longshore (ILWU) Local 8 in Portland, Oregon, in May.

Two International Longshore and Warehouse Union members — Clarence Thomas, who is a third-generation longshoreman in Oakland, and Leo Robinson, who is now retired — spoke with Workers World reporter Cheryl LaBash. Both men have held elected office in ILWU Local 10 and have been key labor activists during their years of work in the ports.

WW: The Nov. 21 ILWU Longshore Coast Committee memorandum states, “Any public demonstration is not a ‘picketline’ under the PCL&CA [Pacific Coast Longshore & Clerk’s Agreement]. … Remember, public demonstrations are public demonstrations, not ‘picketlines.’ Only labor unions picket as referenced in the contract.” What is your reaction?

Clarence Thomas: A picket line is a public demonstration — whether called by organized labor or not. It is legitimate. There are established protocols in these situations. To suggest to longshoremen that they shouldn’t follow them demands clarification. It is one thing to state for the record that the union is not involved, but another thing to erase the historical memory of ILWU’s traditions and practices included in the Ten Guiding Principles of the ILWU adopted at the 1953 biennieal convention in San Francisco.

Leo Robinson: The international has taken the position somehow that the contract is more important than not only defending our interest in terms of this EGT [grain terminal jurisdictional dispute] but having a connection to the Occupy [Wall Street] movement in that when you go through the Ten Guiding Principles of the ILWU, we’re talk about labor unity. Does that include the teachers? Does that include state, county and municipal workers? Those questions need to be analyzed as to who supports whom. The Occupy movement is not separate and apart from the labor movement.

In 2007, average annual full-time wages for 15,000 workers at 29 West Coast ports topped $136,000, according to the Pacific Maritime Association, which negotiates and administers contracts between ports and the ILWU. Longshoremen earned an average of more than $125,000, clerks more than $145,000 and foremen more than $200,000.

Workers also get benefits packages worth $50,000 per year, according to the association’s 2007 report.

Occupier Media Roundup for January 17th - January 19th

Here’s what The Occupier thinks you should be reading:

How Occupy helped labor win on the West Coast

Defiance of labor law and movement support yield a union victory in Washington state


Earlier this month longshore workers in Washington state reached a contract with a boss that has spent the past year fighting to keep their union out.  That company, the multinational EGT, sought to run its new grain terminal in the town of Longview, as the only facility on the West Coast without the famously militant International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).  A victory by EGT would have emboldened employers up and down the coast to seek to free themselves of ILWU influence.  And if the union — with the help of the Occupy movement — had not defied the law, EGT would have succeeded.

The Longview struggle began last March when, after initial discussions with ILWU Local 21, EGT announced its intention to run its new grain terminal without them.  The ILWU held protest rallies, and joined the Port of Longview’s lawsuit charging that EGT was bound by the union’s contract with the publicly owned port.  The union may have had a good legal case.  But so did Washington’s Boeing workers when their boss blamed their strikes for its decision to take new work to South Carolina. Boeing mostly got away with it anyway.

Rather than putting all their faith in the law while EGT did its work without them, ILWU members chose to get in the company’s way.  Literally.  Beginning in July, union members blocked railroad tracks to prevent grain shipments from passing.  According to media reports, workers also tore down fencing and dumped grain.  Police charged that workers threw rocks at them; labor denied members were violent, and charged that police beat and pepper-sprayed workers without justification.  The ILWU did not formally endorse its members’ actions, but its international president was among the dozens arrested.  In September, 200 union members and supporters lined up outside the building housing the sheriff’s office and announced they had arrived to turn themselves in for nonviolently defending their jobs.

Keep reading

SOLIDARITY FOREVER! Union Dispute, Turning Violent, Spreads and Idles Ports

from the New York Times

The busy ports of Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., were shut down on Thursday as an increasingly violent dispute between unionized port workers and the owner of a grain export terminal in Longview, Wash., spilled over to the other facilities.

About 500 longshoremen stormed the new $200 million terminal in Longview before sunrise Thursday, carrying baseball bats, smashing windows, damaging rail cars and dumping tons of grain from the cars, police and company officials said.

Later in the day, more than 1,000 other longshoremen shut down the ports of Seattle and Tacoma by not coming to work.

Officials with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, while claiming they had not authorized the actions in Seattle and Tacoma, said the ports would reopen on Friday.

Members of the union are livid that the Longview terminal’s owner, EGT, is seeking to export grain without reaching an agreement with the union. Instead, EGT hired a contractor that uses workers from another union

“It’s certainly getting more and more violent,” said Jim Duscha, police chief of Longview, a small community almost 40 miles down the Columbia River from Vancouver, Wash. “The terminal’s security guards were outnumbered by people with baseball bats. People were busting windows out of the guard shack. They took a security guard out of his rig and drove it into a ditch.”

The violence was condemned by EGT, which is a joint venture of Bunge, based in St. Louis; Itochu International of Japan; and STX Pan Ocean of South Korea.

“Today, the I.L.W.U. took its criminal activity against EGT to an appalling level, including engaging in assault and significant property destruction,” Larry Clarke, EGT’s chief executive, said Thursday. The longshoremen’s actions were a rare show of union militancy, reminiscent of labor actions a century ago. The West Coast longshoremen’s union asserted that it neither called for nor organized the actions.

“It’s a wildcat and it’s unsanctioned,” said Craig Merrilees, the union’s chief spokesman. “Workers did not show up to work today at the ports of Tacoma and Seattle. Piecing things together, it appears that folks voted with their feet and stood by their conscience to send a message and express concern about what’s happened in Longview.”

If the union did coordinate the actions by the workers, it could be found in contempt of a temporary restraining order issued last week that prohibits the Longview union local from blocking entrances to the EGT terminal.

On Thursday afternoon, Judge Ronald Leighton of United States District Court in Tacoma held a hearing in which he expanded the restraining order to cover other longshoremen’s locals in Washington State. He also turned the temporary order into a preliminary injunction.

Judge Leighton had issued the original restraining order at the request of the National Labor Relations Board, which said that the longshoremen’s union was engaged in unfair labor practices and improperly harassing workers at the EGT terminal.

Judge Leighton told the union’s lawyers on Thursday that there was a peaceful way to protest. “It requires some restraint,” he said. “Your clients have none of that.”

“They have to obey local laws,” he added. “They must restrain themselves from violence, threats, vandalism and the like.”

The judge scheduled another hearing for Thursday to determine whether the longshoremen should be held in civil contempt for violating the court’s temporary restraining order.

Officials at the Tacoma and Seattle ports confirmed that they were closed on Thursday, delaying huge shipments, because the longshoremen did not show up.

The train that was damaged in Thursday morning’s violence arrived at the terminal on Wednesday night after police arrested 19 protesters who tried to block the tracks.

In the union’s view, EGT is violating a longstanding agreement with the Port of Longview that the union says requires companies leasing facilities there to negotiate a labor agreement with the longshoremen’s union.

Matthew Beck, an EGT spokesman, said that the company had sought to negotiate an agreement, but that the union’s pension demands were too expensive.

For years, members of certain — not all — unions say their bosses have compromised their collective power in back-door agreements and concessions. Some resent the “team concept,” a labor term for the working relationship between union bosses and CEOs, which places efficiency and profits over workers’ needs, according to disgruntled members. There is similar sentiment regarding the unions’ long-standing relationship with the Democratic Party — an institution also married to big business.

“The Occupy movement struck a chord,” explained Stan Woods, a member of the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee, a multi-union rank-and-file organization made up of ILWU members, teamsters, city train drivers and other similar blue-collars workers. “The union leadership doesn’t want to be left out, but they are hamstrung by their relationship with the Democrats, mayors and other politicians. They’re caught in a quandary.”
— 

Occupy vs. Big Labor - Salon.com

This explains the following explanations about tomorrow’s actions:

We have contacted the International Longshore Workers Union (ILWU). The ILWU has taken the stance that they will not stand in solidarity with Occupy, and as such, though we did talk to somebody from their local, it seems they aren’t talking about it. The first people who were contacted about this action was the Local ILWU, it’s hard for me to say exactly why he didn’t find out. I’ll have (redacted), one of the organizers of this action contact you about this if he has time as well.

Which was followed up by…

There are some misconceptions about whether ILWU supports The December 12th West Coast Port Shutdown.

ILWU national leadership released a statement saying they “don’t endorse” the December 12th Shutdown.

This is exactly how it was done on November 2nd as well. They participated in and supported it just as much then as they do now.

Here’s how it works: We block the gates to the docks, the arbitrator comes and declares it unsafe for the longshoremen to go to work, and the longshoremen then go home- with pay.

ILWU has to officially say that they don’t “endorse” the shutdown, this is the only way that they will be able to claim that the blockade is a safety hazard for longshoremen.

If they endorsed it, there would be no safety hazard. How could there be a safety hazard from an action that they endorse? It would be a “strike”, no pay for longshoremen that day, and ILWU would be liable for a lawsuit in the millions.

Do not believe the rumor that this means the longshoremen rank-and-file, and the President of the locals don’t individually support us. They do. ILWU just can’t officially do it as an organization.

This action is in support of Longshoremen in Longview, WA who are militantly fighting union-busting activities by the grain company EGT. The actions of the rank-and-file there are not officially endorsed by ILWU either. These are technicalities for legal reasons, not a measure of support in this case.

Here’s what ILWU Local 21 President Dan Coffman said to Occupy Oakland last week at a public rally: “You can’t believe what you people have done for my people!”

ILWU Local 10 Executive Board member Clarence Thomas said publicly: “These Ports are public. People have a right to come to the Port and protest. The ILWU has historically honored picket lines at the Port.”

The ILWU has always honored community pickets. They understand solidarity. This is all part of how it works.

They supported the November 2nd shutdown under the exact same circumstances. The longshoremen support this one too.

Please let folks know about this. The details of this action have caused some confusion among people that need to be clear about their support.

Police and union workers face off during a tense moment as union workers block a grain train in Longview, Wash., Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011. Longshoremen blocked the train as part of an escalating dispute about labor at the EGT grain terminal at the Port of Longview. 

Thursday morning, around 500 longshoremen broke into the grain terminal and caused property damage as well as dumping grain onto the ground. 

Read more about the labor dispute at the Port of Longview.