Fellow Worker Ben Fletcher - A Legacy of Solidarity
At a time when Black Americans were under attack from Jim Crow laws, lynch mobs, boss racism, exclusion from the American Federation of Labor, and other forms of institutionalized racism, the Industrial Workers of the World welcomed all working people into the union as equals. Incidentally laborers such as Ben Fletcher, that fell outside of the AFL’s preference for skilled white anglo-saxon males, were able to join forces in the “One Big Union".
Through the recognition of the bosses dependence on workers for profits, and the IWW’s willingness to withdraw their labor and efficiency in political battle, the “Wobblies” demanded and won a better standard of living, and respect in the democratic spaces they created on the job.
Fletcher was born in Philadelphia in April of 1890. Little is known about his life until his affiliation with the IWW in 1913. Thereupon he made a name for himself among blacks and whites working on the docks of the East Coast as a successful union organizer.
By 1916 all but two of Philadelphia’s docks were under IWW control. By 1917 dock workers had won their demand for .65 cents/hr against the bosses preference of .25 cents. And in non-IWW ships along the East Coast maritime employers could face a strike if the meals provided did not live up to the IWW standard.
Improving race relations was recognized as a top priority by Fletcher and other union members. With a disunited workforce, organizers reasoned that working class solidarity would be impossible. Consequently employers could get away with more. To prevent their bosses from taking advantage of divide and rule tactics, IWW dockworkers sponsored anti-racist forums to educate members. Additionally IWW picnics were held for workers and their families to socialize with the intention of building comradery.
Unfortunately this was also a high-point of working class solidarity on the docks. Industries drive to enter into WW1 and their campaign to create a national mood for class collaboration, xenophobic scapegoating, and the repeal of civil rights was a success on their part. In early September the newly created FBI vandalized IWW offices across the country, stealing membership records on the false pretext that the union was on the side of the Axis nations and was plotting to render America weaker. Later that same month Fletcher was arrested for “conspiring to strike” -an act labeled by the boss press as treason. Afterwords Fletcher landed in Leavenworth prison with hundreds of other Wobblies serving time on a myriad of charges ranging from speaking out against the war, dodging the draft, refusing to sign no strike contracts with their bosses, and engaging in “criminal syndicalism”- a law enacted by some states that aimed to outlaw the IWW as an organization all together.
Nevertheless, Fletcher’s legacy of direct action unionism on the docks hasn’t vanished. In 1984 dock workers in San Francisco refused to unload cargo from South Africa, which Nelson Mandela later cited as reigniting the anti-apartheid movement in his country. In 1998 Wobblies and others within the progressive “International Longshore And Warehouse Union” were taken to court by the Pacific Maritime Association. The PMA tried to sue dock workers that used a picket line to successfully prevent a ship with scab cargo out of the U.K. from being unloaded. The PMA’s McCarthyite request that IWW and ILWU member Robert Irminger name names of those that participated in the protest, so that they could be sued for the resulting business losses, was ruled out by the court on basic first amendment grounds. Further pressure motivating the prosecution to back down in their witch-hunt is the ILWU’s success in shutting down the docks on the days of the court hearings. More recently the ILWU has voted to strike West Coast U.S. docks on April 24th 1999 in solidarity with political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal, a man on death row for a crime that millions doubt he committed.
Then, as now, there is a recognition of the need for independent direct action on the part of dock workers. Our class has tried obedience to management aims and it has gotten us nowhere but a stay at the poorhouse. So now its high time to continue with our tradition of worker autonomy, because freedom is not given. It’s taken by those who demand it.
This article is borrowed from iww.org and minor spelling and formatting corrections were made so that the appearance would be cleaner.
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.
(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.
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.”
ILWU Local 10 members demonstrate at Oscar Grant Plaza in Oakland in 2010
Ragina Johnson reports on the dockworkers’ shutdown of the Port of Oakland to protest the epidemic of police murder across the U.S.
HUNDREDS OF union members, activists and community groups gathered at
the Port of Oakland early on May 1 to protest police terrorism and
support the Black Lives Matter movement.
As the crowd grew, news that Baltimore’s lead prosecutor planned to
indict the six cops involved in Freddie Gray’s murder was arriving.
There was a feeling of vindication in the crowd that there had finally
been a step toward justice for the Gray family, people in Baltimore and
families struggling for justice against the national epidemic of police
The decision of Oakland dockworkers to shut down the port on May Day
in solidarity with the struggle against police brutality continues the
International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10’s
decades-long tradition of militant labor struggles. Local 10 has not
only fought around bread-and-butter economic issues for its own members,
but has also taken many stands in opposition to racism, war and police
brutality. ILWU Local 10 has a well-deserved reputation of taking
concrete action in solidarity with community fights.
The rally was called prior to the escalating rebellion in Baltimore
around Freddie Gray’s murder. In the lead-up to the event, retired
longshore worker Jack Heyman wrote about the importance of dockworkers
and labor being part of the struggle against police and state terror:
When police in North Charleston, S.C., killed Walter Scott, a Black
worker, the longshore union members there organized protests. ILWU Local
10, which has close relations with the Charleston union, responded with
its call to stop work and march on May Day. The South Carolina AFL-CIO
commended the ILWU local for its “courageous actions of solidarity with
the families” and also is calling for May 1 “actions to protest the
continuing unjustifiable killings.”
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
AS THE rally at the port kicked off in the morning, speakers reminded
the crowd about the need to continue fighting in city after city.
“These kinds of actions will continue to occur until we see a change,”
said Wanda Johnson, who is the mother of Oscar Grant, an unarmed African
American man murdered by Bay Area BART police in 2009.
These struggles for justice especially hit home for longshore workers
and their families, who are not immune from the epidemic of police
terrorism and mass incarceration that has devastated so many communities
across the U.S. ILWU members are family to Jeremiah Moore and Richard
“Pedie” Perez III, both killed by police in the last couple years. These
cases have not received the same attention as some of the more
high-profile cases in the Bay Area, but they are just as devastating.
Moore, who was 29 years old and autistic, was killed by a Vallejo police officer in 2012.
“This is a citizen issue,” said Moore’s family member Rebecca as she
surveyed the crowd holding photos of countless people killed by police.
“I’m here to support everyone.”
Last year, Richmond police killed Richard “Pedie” Perez III, who was
24. His father spoke briefly and powerfully to thank the crowd for
coming out. “It’s so tough,” he said of the devastating loss that family
members wake up to each morning. “Every day I cry.”
Police target African Americans disproportionately because of racist
policing practices and the deeper structural and systemic discrimination
that oppresses communities of color. Yet the Moore and Perez families
are not African American–their tragic loss reveals the fact that the
violence of police terrorism affects all working-class and poor people.
Mollie Costello of the Alan Blueford Foundation reminded everyone
that we’re coming up on the two-year anniversary of Oakland high school
student Alan Blueford’s murder by Oakland police. “We’re here as a
community, and we’re here for labor,” she said.
After the speakers finished, the whole crowd chanted together:
“Justice for Freddie Gray, justice for Pedie Perez, justice for Oscar
Grant, justice for Jeremiah Moore, justice for Alan Blueford.”
In the crowd, there were activists from other unions who had taken
the day off to support the Black Lives Matter movement and the movement
against police terror. In an interview, one union carpenter, who wished
to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation by conservative elements in
Carpenters Union Local 2236, referenced the 1934 general strike in San
Francisco that centered on the dockworkers’ struggle:
I think it is important to be educated in history. Regarding Black Lives
Matter and police violence, it wasn’t long ago that labor was facing
police terror. Labor needs to support these movements now. In 1934,
during the San Francisco general strike, tens of thousands of workers
went out to protest workers who had been murdered by the police.
This protest in 1934 against the police killing of two workers–what
is known as “Bloody Thursday”–helped galvanize other unions to support
the dockworkers’ strike and turned the struggle into a general strike
that shut down San Francisco. These historic actions by port workers and
the broader labor movement led to the unionization of the docks and the
formation of the ILWU.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
On May 1, dozens of longshore workers, with their banners “An injury
to one is and injury to all” and “Stop police terror,” led the
march–along with the dockworkers’ drill team–towards Oscar Grant Plaza
in downtown Oakland. ILWU members held signs “Justice for Pedie” and
wore shirts with the faces of ILWU family members who were victims of
As the march moved through Oakland, African American families and
community membered picked up signs and put them in the windows of their
homes. Some also joined the protest, swelling the size of the march to
about 1,000. In a touching display of support, grade school kids at two
Oakland schools ran out cheering across their playground and fields to
meet the march, yelling and chanting while peering through the schools’
People talked and chanted as they covered the several miles to
downtown Oakland. Along the way, many engaged in discussions about how
to build labor support for the Black Lives Matter movement and the need
to connect the attacks on working people with a struggle against racist
police violence. In an interview, ILWU Local 10 member Anthony Leviege
pointed out that the movement needs to talk about how the system as a
whole stands in the way of justice:
We need to talk about jobs. We should make demands for economic change.
These economic problems are what lead to ghettos and police aggression.
The police should turn their guns on who the real criminals
are–corporations and those running the system. People are getting
ground down. We can’t breathe. Police and war are all symbols of how
this system just doesn’t work.
The march ended up with a rally at Oscar Grant Plaza, where the
number of unions and activists taking part grew to include many Oakland
and Berkeley public school teachers, transit workers in the Amalgamated
Transit Union 1555, and organizations fighting for a living wage, such
as East Bay Organizing Committee and the Fight for 15 Bay Area.
The ILWU action coincided with a rally of Service Employees
International Union Local 1021 and International Federation of
Professional and Technical Engineers Local 21, who are organizing for a
new municipal workers’ contract with the City of Oakland.
ILWU Local 10 members spoke at Oscar Grant Plaza and expressed
solidarity with the rebellion in Baltimore over the murder of Freddie
Gray. They connected these struggles to the economic, political and
class system that is waging war on all working people and trying to keep
African Americans on the bottom rung of society.
“I understand why those kids are out there throwing rocks and
bottles,” said Trent Willis, former president and business agent of
Local 10. “It’s a result of many generations of people out there facing
poverty and violence. We have to understand that this is a class
struggle, my union understands that, and that’s why I am proud to be a
Local 10 member.”
Clarence Thomas, who recently retired after 30 years as a longshore
worker, union activist and former executive board member, expressed the
militancy needed for this fight:
The ILWU is in the vanguard of the entire U.S. labor movement. If we
want to stop this reign of terror, we have to stop commerce. When
workers stop, they shut down America. The supreme task of the U.S. labor
movement is to confront the corporations head on and lead a movement of
workers and oppressed to build a just and peaceful world.
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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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).
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.
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.
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.
Published On May 3, 2015 | By Socialist Alternative
Join the many endorsers and supporters of Kshama Sawant’s re-election campaign! We are proud to announce that the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District Lodge 751 (IAM 751) has endorsed the Kshama Sawant re-election campaign! Representing over 33,000 workers, IAM 751 has a rich history of challenging the rapaciousness of Boeing executives and corporate America and winning gains for working people and the middle class through struggle. IAM 751 joins Teamsters locals 117 and 174, International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) 19, Washington Federation of State Employees 1488, and others on the growing list of unions endorsing Kshama as their representative on the Seattle City Council. You will find a list of endorsements on the campaign website.
Fighting Corporate Cash
The big developer Vulcan, an engine for the gentrification in District 3, was already donating in the race against Kshama. The anti-teachers’-union “Alliance for Education” stepped in with its money to stop Kshama. Non-union hotel owners threw in their cash to remove Sawant from City Hall.
We can defend this seat – but we need your help! Volunteer and donate now, on KshamaSawant.org.
Please visit KshamaSawant.org now and dig deep to keep Kshama as the driving force for working people on Seattle’s city council. The maximum for individuals is $700 for individuals and $1400 if you are married. Can you donate $100, $500, or $1400 now? Every dollar helps to push back against the corporate donors trying to buy elections.
I didn’t grow up around a lot of nature. My Dad worked in refineries and then as a dockworker with the ILWU for 20 years. I remember dock AT-AT’s, oil donkeys and the exhaust flame from the 76 refinery as some of my earliest scenery. #Oakland #longbeach #wilmington #dockworkers #ILWU #portcity #unionmade (at FTW Tattoo Parlor)