Write us!

January 2003 • Vol 3, No. 1 •

Maritime Bosses Won Big Over ILWU

By Jack Mulcahy

With the discussion being put forth on this message board over the difference in wages between clerks, foremen, and crane operators, the employers are further basking in their landmark victory. Whatever our personal opinions may be over what some in the division are getting in wages over another part of the division needs to be put in the proper perspective.

The employers know statistically where the strength and weaknesses of the union are. They know the percentage of skilled machine and crane operators on the coast. They know the average age of the members in every longshore local, and those that will be available for the early retirement windows.

They know the amount of privileged steady crane operators in Los Angeles and San Francisco. They also know this contract may get them steady operators in Seattle and Tacoma. The ILWU negotiators did not negotiate this agreement. 

It was forced on the union by the PMA under the threat of Government intimidation. It was designed by the employer to further divide and weaken the union, and for maximum voting potential by paying the money to the largest sector of “yes” voters.

The rank and file needs to send the message to the PMA and to Bush that they can threaten to divide and intimidate the ILWU negotiators, but they can’t do it to the rank and file. It is up to us, the rank and file, to straighten out this mess by sending the negotiators back for a contract that benefits the ILWU as a whole and secures our future. We should hold Miniace to his opening remarks to the ILWU negotiating committee, where he stated:

Let me be very clear; the PMA recognizes the role and historic jurisdiction of the ILWU members and will respect both. Technology and work process change will eliminate certain work and create new work The ILWU members, our registered workforce of longshoremen and clerks, will be guaranteed work opportunity under this contract and, more importantly, the opportunity to move into new positions, with methods of work and a secure future.

Miniace is a deceitful, lying, distrustful rat. There are no guaranteed methods of work and secure future for clerks under the technology section of the contract. Its language is written so loosely that the division is going to set up a committee of clerks to argue, and arbitrate the many jurisdictional beefs they are expecting.

If the language was written so well, and Miniace guarantees us a secure future, then why would the ILWU need a special committee to handle disputes? The employers selected the new Coast Arbitrator, and he will be loyal to them. We should be fighting to protect jurisdiction, not throwing all the hard-fought for gains out the window. The ILWU family deserves those jobs.

The employers through the “Modernization and Mechanization agreement” of 1960 have systematically moved large portions of the ILWU different divisions jurisdictional work to off dock and nonunion. What we have left is just the skeleton of jurisdiction we once had. We should not have to pay for the same real estate twice.

Look in your own port and you will see the areas where the jobs have already been eliminated. Modernized bulk facilities, grain elevators, container operations are all streamlined. Many container operations have been moved off dock—we were promised that work once and still lost it. Break Bulk has been replaced by nothing in the small ports, and containerization in larger ports. We have been through the trench war of the M&M contract and came out on the short end. The employers already have section 15 of the contract “Efficient Operations” which states:

“There shall be no interference by the Union with the Employers’ right to operate efficiently and to change methods of work and to utilize labor-saving devices....” And section 15.2, “The employers shall not be required to hire unnecessary men ….” It is this section of the contract that has decimated the division.

The employers are using the technology question as a smokescreen to open up Pandora’s box. If there are jobs that the employers want to get rid of, then let them use the process available to them under the current section 15 of the contract.

The ILWU workforce is not the cumbersome slow-footed sloth the employers make us out to be. Productivity and tonnage are moving at a faster pace than ever before, much of the time at the expense of our members safety. Our work force deserves better than to have a union busting hit man, representing foreign shipping interests, come in and destroy American jobs.

Labor is going to take a huge setback by the ILWU buckling under the gun of Taft-Hartley and PMA intimidation. The ILWU has always been looked up to by others in the labor movement. Bush will follow suit on all other unions. When the autoworkers, steel workers, teamsters, and other unions contracts are due they will also have to face the threat of Taft-Hartley and government intimidation.

They are watching closely. If it works against the ILWU, it will work against the others. We are all in this one together. I would rather make the fight now while we still have some control and power left. In six years under this contract we will not have the amount of union strength we have right now. It is also likely the rest of the labor unions will not be there to support us after years of Bush labor busting.

It is a critical and historic time for the future of our union; there are no safeguards stopping anti-union legislation. Even if this contract passes, the legislation could still happen. If ILWU union busting legislation is passed in the next six years, we will be passing up our only chance to fight.

In solidarity,

Jack M. ILWU Local 8
December 15, 2002





Write us