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K1. Business Unions

2018 Annual Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies Awards Banquet honors ILWU Local 19 and welcomes a new Bridges Chair

ILWU - Wed, 12/19/2018 - 16:32

Honoring Local 19: ILWU Local 19 President Rich Austin, Jr. accepted the Robert Duggan Distinguished Supporter Award on behalf of the Local 19 membership. They were given the award for their role in the Jenkins Fellowship and for supporting the Bridges Center and students for three decades.

On Sunday, November 11, 2018, over 250 people gathered at the University of Washington in Seattle to celebrate the contributions of students, faculty and working people to labor research and advocacy. The Labor Studies awards banquet, which has been held annually for over 20 years, is hosted by the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies. The Bridges Center was established in 1992 following a grassroots fundraising campaign by members of the ILWU to honor late president Harry Bridges by establishing an institution dedicated to the study of work and working-class issues in higher education. Thanks to the on-going support of the ILWU, the Bridges Center now provides nearly $100,000 in labor scholarships and research funding each year.

New Bridges Chair in Labor Studies announced

The night’s program began with an introduction from Michael McCann, the outgoing director of the Bridges Center. He introduced the audience to Kim England, the newest Harry Bridges Endowed Chair in Labor Studies. A rotating position held by faculty at the University of Washington, the Bridges Chair is tasked with setting the agenda of the Bridges Center and leading labor studies on campus. England is the first geographer to hold the Bridges Chair and also the first Chair whose research and teaching centers on women and caring labor.

Originally from the United Kingdom, Kim England completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Leicester, and subsequently went on to complete her MA and PhD in Geography at the Ohio State University.

Since coming to the University of Washington in 1999, she has continued to pursue her interests in feminist, economic, social and political geographies through teaching and research. Kim’s long standing interest in labor, work and employment stems from her own personal history and geography. She was born in Wallsend, a town on the River Tyne in Northeast England, with a long history of coalmining and ship-building. She grew up in a time when jobs in those industries were declining, and saw the struggles of family and friends whose livelihoods were disappearing. She remarked, “As a girl, I knew those jobs weren’t open to me anyway, but I was mindful of what this meant for the local economy and everyday life, and saw the ways unions fought to keep jobs and protest deteriorating working conditions.”

As someone who hails from a proud working class community in the North of England, she will continue to bring this dedication to labor and activism in her research, advocacy, and leadership as Harry Bridges Chair.

Honoring ILWU Local 19

Thanks to the generous contributions from ILWU locals and pensioners, two new scholarships were created at the Bridges Center in 2018, the Frank Jenkins Jr. Fellowship in Labor Studies and the Michelle Drayton and Ian Kennedy Scholarship in Labor Studies.

Frank Jenkins Jr. – grandson of a runaway slave, first son of a Buffalo Soldier and a native Filipina, and a member of the first known Filipino family in the Puget Sound region – was a devoted labor activist and lifelong union member and leader in Seattle’s ILWU Local 19. He began working on the waterfront as a young adult in the 1920s and was a contributor to the 1934 strike. His activism during his decades-long commitment to the ILWU and work with other labor activists such as Martin Jugum, an ILWU member who is also honored at the Bridges Center through the Martin and Anne Jugum scholarship for undergraduate students, allowed for the implementation of more equitable policies on the waterfront. One of their greatest contributions was the introduction of a rotation system that allowed everyone to receive an equal amount of work that did not strip fair opportunities from Black workers.

In February of 2018, to honor Jenkin’s= contribution to the ILWU and labor community, the membership of ILWU Local 19 voted to approve a contribution of $100,000 to the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies for the creation of the Frank Jenkins Jr. Fellowship in Labor Studies. The Coast Longshore Division followed with a matching donation of an additional $100,000. (See the September 2018 issue of the Dispatcher) At the banquet, Kim England and four of the former Endowed Bridges Chairs, James Gregory, Dan Jacoby, Michael McCann and George Lovell, collectively honored ILWU Local 19 at the Labor Awards Banquet by awarding the union with this years’ Robert Duggan Distinguished Supporter Award for its role in the Jenkins Fellowship and its three decades of investment in the foundation and support of the Bridges Center and its students.

In addition to the Jenkins Fellowship, the Bridges Center also received a contribution of $100,000 from Ian Kennedy and Michelle Drayton, former members of ILWU Local 52 and current officers of the Seattle ILWU Pensioners Club, to establish the Kennedy Drayton Scholarship in Labor Studies. The four-year award will support working-class freshmen pursuing labor studies at the University of Washington.

2018 Labor Studies Scholarships honor the legacy of ILWU Activists

Pensioner support: The Seattle Pensioners Club has been a strong supporter of the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies. Their fundraising efforts over the years have been crucial to the success of the program and established several scholarship

The new scholarships join a long list of Bridges Center scholarships dedicated to past ILWU members, including the Gundlach Scholarship in Labor Studies, the Martin and Anne Jugum Scholarship in Labor Studies, and the Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes Scholarship in Labor Studies. The Gundlach Scholarship in Labor Studies was created by the estate of Jean Gundlach, a labor activist and former staff secretary of Harry Bridges and the ILWU, to honor her memory and that of her siblings, Wilford, Ralph and Betty, all former UW alumni. Ralph Gundlach was a former UW professor, but was fired in 1948 after being branded a communist by the McCarthyist Canwell Committee. Through Jean’s own efforts, former UW President William Gerberding issued an apology for UW’s participation in the Canwell hearings. This year’s Gundlach scholarship was awarded to Brian Serafini, a PhD student in Sociology whose research challenges assumptions about precarious labor and worker consent in the fast food industry.

Martin “Jug” Jugum was a longtime activist and key member of the ILWU for over fifty years. He was essential in creating the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies and was a co-chair for the Harry Bridges Memorial Committee. The Martin and Anne Jugum Scholarship in Labor Studies was created to honor him and his wife and their dedication to the labor movement. This year the scholarship was awarded to two undergraduates: Jenesis Garcia and Marcos Vieyra. Garcia has a deep commitment to resistance in the forms of community healing and personal authenticity. Her work is shared with her community and embodied through her work as the University of Washington Q Center’s Queer and Trans Student of Color Cultural Worker and Advocate. Vieyra is also dedicated to community resistance through his organizing with Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Alto Pacifico (MeChA), and hopes to pursue a career in law to develop an in-depth understanding of the U.S. legal system, to subvert laws that serve the interests of only those in power, and act as an advocate for laborers by providing platforms through which their voices may be heard.

Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes were two critical and inspiring labor leaders who fought hard to dispel brutal conditions and racist management in their workplaces. They jointly formed the Alaska Cannery Workers Association to undertake this feat. In 1977 Domingo and Viernes also formed the Rank and File Committee of ILWU Local 37 to struggle for union democracy and fair working conditions, despite severe opposition from all sides. They were elected to ILWU Local 37 leadership in 1980 and worked to build solidarity with workers in the Philippines. Both were tragically both murdered in 1981 at the order of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The Domingo Viernes Scholarship was formed in 2011 by the Inlandboatmen’s Union, Region 37, to honor their memory and the inspiring legacy of their activism. The awardees of the scholarship this year were Alejandra Pérez and Polly Woodbury. Pérez, as an undocumented student, has worked tirelessly to develop trainings and resources to serve other undocumented students and young professionals through the creation of Undocu Ally Trainings and her collaboration with the Washington Dream Coalition. Woodbury, currently a graduate student in Social Work and Global Health, has spent several summers working with the AFL-CIO through internships with the Union Summer program and the Solidarity Center in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Labor History and the Labor Archives of Washington

In addition to awards honoring the ILWU, the banquet featured announcements of the latest research projects funded by the Bridges Center, a report on the activities of the Labor Archives of Washington, and a host of other awards. Of particular note, this year the Pacific Northwest Labor History Association (PNLHA) collaborated with the Bridges Center on the creation of a $500 Paper Prize to promote and reward engaging labor history research by students. One of the two award-winning papers this year, The Longshoremen During the Seattle General Strike by Juan Ortiz, focused on longshore history by illustrating the complex economic and social changes that occurred after World War I and the intricacies behind the Seattle longshore workers’ decision to join the 1919 General Strike.

In researching his paper, Ortiz drew upon collections held by the Labor Archives of Washington, established in 2010 thanks to generous support from the ILWU. The Labor Archives is currently organizing for the 100th anniversary of the Seattle General Strike with a commemorative event titled Solidarity City: The Seattle General Strike and 100 Years of Worker Power. This event will take place at the Labor Temple on February 9th from 1pm-4pm. It will be part of the Solidarity Centennial, a series of events hosted by various organizations in Seattle to commemorate the 1919 Seattle General Strike, a five-day worker strike that began on February 6th in light of post WWI economic and social conditions. Sixty-thousand union and nonunion workers stopped working in an act of solidarity, halting the city’s daily functioning before a military intervention incited by Seattle Mayor, Ole Hanson. “Solidarity City” will feature experts and panelists from the labor community to speak about the 1919 events and how the labor movement has evolved since, honoring the legacy of labor rights activism and where it must continue to go.

UW Laundry Workers Speak Out

The banquet concluded with an appeal for support from several members of the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) 1488. The University of Washington recently made the decision to close the Mount Baker laundry facility that cleans linens for UW hospitals, despite appeals and protests from the laundry workers, WFSE, UW United Students Against Sweatshops and 44 state legislators. This decision will result in job losses for about 100 union workers in late March. At the banquet, several people who have worked for Mount Baker laundry for decades spoke about how the closure will impact them and their families. The majority are immigrants and refugees.

More information about the year-round activities of the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies, including scholarships, research projects, events, and the Labor Archives of Washington, can be found by visiting the Bridges Center’s website at

Categories: K1. Business Unions

IBU members celebrate a century of progressive maritime unionism

ILWU - Wed, 12/19/2018 - 15:17

IBU Centennial: The Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU), celebrated their 100th anniversary in Seattle on November 11-15. The gathering addressed important issues including on-going organizing efforts, countering threats posed by non-union tug operations and the Janus decision, automation and ferry privatization, apprenticeship programs and protecting the Jones Act.

The Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU) – one of the nation’s largest inland maritime unions and the ILWU’s Marine Division – celebrated their 100th anniversary and 24th Convention in Seattle on November 11-15.

The IBU’s history, accomplishments and struggles were highlighted at a Centennial Anniversary evening gala held inside Seattle’s spectacular Museum of Flight. Over 250 union members and industry officials mingled among the exhibits of historic and modern aircraft. The IBU’s new President, Marina Secchitano, was introduced by the evening’s Master of Ceremonies, IBU Secretary/Treasurer Terri Mast.

Secchitano recognized many leaders in the room, including all four of the ILWU’s International Officers: President Willie Adams, Vice President (Mainland) Bobby Olvera, Jr., Vice President (Hawaii) Wesley Furtado and Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris. Other union leaders introduced included ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton, former IBU Presidents Alan Cote and Don Liddle, along with former IBU Secretary- Treasurer Larry Miner. President Don Marcus of the Masters, Mates & Pilots Union was thanked along with Paul Garrett, Assistant Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia’s Sydney Branch. Many IBU employer representatives attended, including Washington State Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar, President Tom Escher from San Francisco’s Red & White Fleet, Bruce Reed from Tidewater on the Columbia River, Rob Reller of Manson Construction, and Black Ball Ferry CFO David Booth.

The official speeches were brief, including the ILWU’s newly-elected International President Willie Adams, who thanked the IBU for their 1980 decision to affiliate with the ILWU, and for the many contributions made by the IBU before and since. The City of Seattle prepared an official proclamation that was presented by Mayor Jenny Durkin’s office, honoring the IBU’s many accomplishments. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti sent his congratulations via twitter. Video testimonials from union advocates appeared on giant screens inside the museum, including U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a powerful union advocate and potential U.S. Presidential candidate who congratulated Secchitano for being elected President of the IBU. “This is the year of the woman, and your new leadership role is noteworthy and important.” Also joining via video was Washington State Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Seattle who sent her congratulations and best wishes to officers and members. The evening concluded with a video presentation highlighting the IBU’s hundred-year history and century of struggle for workers’ rights. The program concluded with a champagne toast – to another hundred years of militant,

ILWU family: From left to right: ILWU International Vice President (Hawaii), Wesley Furtado, ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris, IBU Secretary-
Treasurer Terri Mast, ILWU International President Willie Adams, ILWU International Vice President (Mainland) Bobby Olvera, Jr. and IBU President Marina Secchitano.

member-focused unionism.

Launched in dangerous times

The courageous group of Bay Area ferry workers who founded the IBU’s predecessor in 1918, the Ferryboatmen’s Union of California, did so in difficult and dangerous times. Unions and strikes were illegal. Seventeen states passed “criminal syndicalism” laws that allowed thousands of union members to be imprisoned and brutalized, including California, Oregon and Washington. Conditions got worse for unions when America entered the First World War on a wave of nationalism promoted by big business and politicians who used their warped sense of “patriotism” to attack union organizers as traitors and “enemies of the people.” Leaders of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) who helped workers in West Coast ports, lumber camps, factories and fields, were among those hunted down, jailed, beaten, tortured and murdered. Congress passed the unconstitutional Sedition Act in 1918, making it a crime to criticize or hold opinions against the war. Other earthshaking events during 1917-1918 included the Russian Revolution and mobilizations by women for the right to vote. These factors caused deep divisions within labor unions, as radicals were purged, jailed and killed – while many establishment unions turned their backs on civil liberties and some joined racist campaigns against “dangerous alien immigrants.” When the war ended in November of 1918, much of Europe was destroyed, 16 million were dead and another 75 million would soon die in the global flu pandemic. Most militant labor unions were exterminated or weakened – but the IBU managed to survive and grow in these difficult conditions.

Young voices: IBU delegates responded to an appeal by Aubrey Johnsson, a guest at the convention from the San Francisco Region. She encouraged the IBU to
strengthen connections with cadets at the Tongue Point Academy, one of two maritime training and apprenticeship programs on the West Coast. Johnsson is a Tongue Point graduate.

Early focus on ferry workers

The IBU’s early growth was possible because so many ferries were being used to transport cargo, railroad cars and people around booming cities and ports on the West Coast.

Surviving by organizing

The union’s initial boom lasted little more than a decade. New bridges built during the mid-1930’s caused many ferries to be idled. The modern bridges were needed to accommodate an explosion of cars and trucks. In an ironic twist, many of the new bridges were funded by President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, which created millions of desperately-needed construction jobs across the country, but also caused thousands of ferry workers to lose their work. Roosevelt’s support for workers and unions was also enormously helpful when the union expanded beyond the Bay Area to help workers organize in the Pacific Northwest, where port cities in Washington. Oregon and Alaska had grown quickly from timber and mining. The union also moved to help workers organize in Southern California, especially San Pedro and San Diego.

Breaking with old limitations

The IBU’s dramatic growth was also possible because they expanded beyond their previous “jurisdiction,” that limited them to only help ferry workers. This narrow perspective was soon abandoned in favor of helping workers on tugs, barges and other vessels. Workers at fish canneries and processing plants joined in 1985, and most recently, environmental response workers. This new approach to jurisdiction was called “industrial unionism” and it gave the union a new name: the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific.

Search for a democratic partner

Over the years, the IBU has affiliated with different unions and federations, always searching for a democratic partner. Early on, they affiliated with the International Seaman’s Union (ISU) that was part of the American Federation of Labor. When the industrial union movement rose in the 1930’s, the IBU aligned with the Congress of Industrial Unions (CIO), being the first west coast union to join that rebel group – doing so a few months before the ILWU. During the next decade they tried to avoid bitter conflicts between ILWU President Harry Bridges and Sailors Union of the Pacific President Harry Lundeberg. In 1947 the IBU joined the Seafarers’ International Union (SIU), but left in 1979 over objections to what were seen as undemocratic and unethical practices. The following year saw a bitter strike by Washington State ferry workers with leaders Don Liddle and Larry Miner jailed for defying a court injunction. That’s when ILWU locals shut down the Puget

Asking hard questions: Robert Estrada, IBU Director for the San Francisco Region, was among many Convention delegates who used the workshops to ask hard questions and hear different points of view.

Sound in solidarity. The move that led to a settlement for ferry workers and affiliation with the ILWU.

Membership trends

IBU membership peaked at 40,000 before WWII. As the number of ferries continued to dwindle and anti-union laws took their toll, the membership levelled to 4,000 where it remains today. But the union retains the same democratic, member-focused, progressive spirit from a century ago. And ferry service is now making a comeback, with communities in Alaska, Washington and California recognizing the critical role that public ferries play in regional transportation plans.

24th Convention opens

On Monday morning, November 12, all the history and current challenges came into sharp focus as the IBU’s 24th Convention was called to order at the Edgewater Hotel, overlooking Elliott Bay on the Puget Sound. The convention was chaired by President Marina Secchitano. Longtime IBU Secretary-Treasurer Terri Mast announced that 45 delegates and 20 special guests were present. The guests included ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton who was accompanied by Local 400 Secretary-Treasurer Jason Woods and Liam Lumsden, a Young Worker and Local 400 Board member. Also attending was Sydney Branch Presiding Officer Paul Garrett, who came with Rob Paterson, Glan Munright, Trent Miller and Liam Burke, all from the Maritime Union of Australia.

Spiritual message for the union

Deacon Jose Deleon from the Seattle Seafarers Ministry offered a prayer and reflection on the IBU’s longstanding commitment to promoting justice and equality. Deleon said he was grateful for the opportunity to work so closely with the IBU and the ILWU over many years, helping crew members from the Philippines, China and other nations. These seafarers sometimes arrive to the West Coast on vessels with substandard working conditions. Deleon thanked IBU member Jeff Engels for coordinating work of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) on the West Coast with a talented team that includes Inspectors Peter Lahay in Canada, Stefan Mueller-Dombois in LA and Martin Larson in Oregon. Deleon praised the IFT inspectors for helping seafarers win many struggles for dignity, respect and better pay.

Joyful union noise

Exchanging ideas: Listening on the left is Joanne Smitchko, who serves on the IBU Alaska Region Executive Committee. Expressing an opinion is Puget Sound Region Executive Committee member and Convention delegate, Sue Moser.

Next up was Seattle’s Labor Chorus, which came to celebrate the 100th Anniversary and inspire convention delegates to prepare for the hard work ahead. The Chorus performs frequently at picket lines, rallies and community events, with roots that include IBU members Scott Seramur, who was a founding member, and his wife Susan Moser, who performed at the convention. The Chorus started 21 years ago at the Northwest Folklife Festival where legendary union advocate and folksinger Pete Seeger promised to return and sing with the fledgling group if they became established. They did, and Seeger keep his promise.

IBU President Secchitano

IBU President Marina Secchitano was elected last December to become the union’s first female President. She joined longtime Secretary-Treasurer Terri Mast, making the IBU one of the few unions to be led by women leaders. Secchitano offered many thoughts about what could be accomplished at the convention and a vision for what lies ahead in the coming years.

Non-union tug threat

One challenge facing the IBU and covered by Secchitano was plainly visible just outside the meeting room’s large windows where a growing number of non-union tugs and barges now operate along much of the West Coast and Hawaii.

Big oil hurts union members

Symbol of power: IBU Local 400 Executive Board member Liam Lumsden (left) presented the IBU Convention with a Sea Serpent held by Local 400 Secretary-Treasurer Jason Woods. The gift from ILWU Canada is a hand-carved symbol of power that plays an important role in the mythology of Coast Salish people. Lumsden, a member of the Squamish Nation, made the presentation to IBU President Marina Secchitano (L) and Secretary-Treasurer Terri Mast (R).

Secchitano highlighted the growing non-union environment by citing the recent change at the Port of Valdez, Alaska. Big oil companies in Valdez decided to replace their longtime union contractor, Crowley, with a large anti-union corporation from the Gulf of Mexico, called Edison Chouest. The new contractor has a history of mishaps, but still won a ten-year contract to provide tug assist and emergency response for tankers carrying North Slope crude through Prince William Sound, where a catastrophic spill in 1989 dumped 11 million gallons of oil into pristine waters and fouled 1300 miles of shoreline. “I recently visited those Crowley workers and families up in Valdez during the final days of their contract, and it was heartbreaking,” said Secchitano, explaining that the new contractor brought their own non-union workforce from the South instead of rehiring Crowley workers that included many Native Alaskans. She said the IBU has been trying to help the displaced workers find jobs at other union companies. Secchitano added that many small businesses in Valdez are now suffering because Edison Chouest refuses to “buy local” and support the community like Crowley did for decades.

Ferry workers get organized

Secchitano also commented on the challenges facing thousands of public ferry workers who were recently hit by the anti-union Janus decision, handed-down last year by the US Supreme Court. The Janus attack was financed by corporations who hoped the Supreme Court ruling would destroy unions by encouraging members to quit paying dues. IBU ferry workers in Alaska, Washington and California responded by educating their co-workers about the scheme through thousands of conversations. This approach yielded excellent results, with only a handful refusing to pay their share of union dues. “The member-to-member conversations you had with your co-workers made the difference and helped us stay strong,” said Secchitano. “We’ve still got more work to do in some areas, but we’re on the right track with this approach.”

Cheap oil hurts ferry workers

Secchitano described a special problem facing ferry workers in Alaska that has implications for all union members. Some Alaska politicians are trying to privatize the state’s public ferry system in order to break public unions and convert a valuable public asset into a private, profit-making investment for Wall Street. She said the threat has become more serious because falling crude oil prices are depleting Alaska’s state revenue that depends on oil taxes. She explained that declining oil prices and resulting budget shortfalls have many legislators demanding big budget cuts from public employees in Alaska, including ferry workers. Secchitano promised to help IBU members in Alaska fight back. She also praised efforts by Acting (Jan-May, 2018) Regional Director Darryl Tseu, who is sharing the valuable experience and relationships he has with many Alaska legislators.

Non-union on our doorstep

Making a point: Erik Ferrel (L) is a Master Steward for Washington State ferry workers in the Puget Sound and was an IBU Convention delegate. On his right is ferry worker Andrew Mannion, also a Steward and union activist.

During a break in the session, IBU Puget Sound Business Agent Gail McCormick explained that his region’s largest tug companies, Foss and Crowley, “have the largest and most powerful tractor tug fleets with the best-skilled crews, so pilots tend to favor them, but the non-union and sub-standard operators are nipping around the edges and showing up more often,” he said, pointing across Elliott Bay where a non-union tug was visible in the distance.

Three of the biggest non-union tug and barge companies are Vane Brothers from Maryland, Edison Chouest from Louisiana and the Kirby Corporation from Texas. All three also have modern fleets, and are scouting for new work, in part, because low oil prices have forced companies to close down expensive wells in the Gulf of Mexico – and cancel support vessel contracts there.

Secchitano explained how she’s seen the growing non-union threat take shape on the West Coast. “When I visited Hawaii recently, I saw a big Kirby tug next to a Foss union vessel. Then back home I saw a Kirby tug in San Francisco Bay, which we hadn’t seen before, and I learned that it was heading up here to the Puget Sound, so we can see these guys are getting more serious about moving out west,” she said.

Secchitano ended with some important updates, the first of which involved the IBU pension which had an unfunded liability for many years but is now on a recovery plan that will restore the fund’s health over the next 11 years.

She also provided the latest good news about expanded ferry services in San Francisco Bay, where state and federal funding has supported a 14-vessel fleet serving four routes that carry 2.7 million passengers annually – with plans to reach 5 times that number in 2035 using 44 vessels. The new passenger ferries are the cleanest 400 passenger vessels in the world and can reach over 30 mph.

Secchitano ended by noting the untimely passing of Veronica Sanchez, a skilled legislative advocate who helped Bay Area maritime workers wage many campaigns for good jobs and better working conditions. She said Sanchez was a valuable ally of the IBU and other unions. “Veronica will be remembered for fighting many good fights with us, and we will miss her deeply.”

Greetings from Canada

Active workshops: The IBU Convention encouraged discussion and different points of view. Alaska Patrolman Krissel Calibo explains her ideas to Frank McMurray, who serves as Vice Chair for the SF Region.

ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton was invited to the podium where he congratulated IBU members for their century of progressive unionism. Ashton said he was representing 6000 ILWU Canada members, plus another 7000 affiliated members. He urged the IBU to continue their progressive tradition, warning that employers are constantly looking for ways to create division and doubt between workers. He cited the importance of welcoming everyone into the union, regardless of their gender orientation. “What matters is that we all bleed just like the next worker, regardless of how we look or how we choose to live.”

Remarks from President Adams

Newly-elected ILWU International President Willie Adams was the next speaker who began by recognizing the team of officers who accompanied him to attend the IBU Convention: Vice President for Mainland Bobby Olvera, Jr.; Vice President for Hawaii Wesley Furtado and Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris. “I believe that four heads are better than one,” he said. “All of us have come here to listen to you and offer our support.”

He also praised the ILWU tradition of operating in the open and encouraging members to ask questions – especially the questioning elected union officials. “We can’t be afraid to have members criticize and challenge their elected officers,” he said. Adams said the same principle applies to welcoming new and younger voices. “I’m excited and energized by what young people are doing in this union. We need to involve them, include them and listen to them.”

Adams said he was humbled by the fact that the IBU was founded in 1918, sixteen years ahead of the ILWU. “The IBU’s been around longer than the ILWU, which means we can learn from your history and experience.”

He also thanked President Secchitano for “having the courage to step up, lean in and stick her neck out to run for President. I look forward to working with you and your team,” said Adams.

He wrapped-up by sharing his concerns about the political challenges facing IBU and ILWU members, emphasizing the need to prepare now for a voice in the 2020 election. Adams noted the positive election results in November, with a record number of more union-friendly candidates who will control the U.S. House of Representatives. But he also reminded everyone that the U.S. Senate remains controlled by an antiunion majority – and added that Alaska’s new governor favors big business over workers and unions. “Those workers and others like them depend on us to help them organize and speak out,” Adams concluded.

Special guest: MM&P President

Don Marcus, President of the Masters, Mates and Pilots Union, opened by joking about the challenge of following Willie Adams to the podium. Marcus said the IBU, ILWU and the MM&P share a common bond; they are among the larger group of Maritime Unions who formed the Maritime Labor Alliance six years ago. He said the group plays an important role in building unity.

“We squabble today at our own risk. Non-union operators are no longer unchallenged and many are operating in former union strongholds. They provide their workers with half-decent pay and working conditions, but poor benefits and no rights on the job. I’ve followed several of your IBU organizing efforts that were thwarted by bad labor laws. Let’s remember that it took twenty years for union organizing campaigns to prevail on the Columbia River.”

Marcus agreed that the Janus Supreme Court decision has had a surprisingly positive effect so far, with most workers choosing to remain dues-paying union members. “About ten years ago, we had 40 percent of federal employees participating in our union – and today we have 90 percent. In our case, it happened because of one woman who took the effort to talk with her co-workers about supporting the union.”

Marcus said unions need to use a similar approach in the future. “We have to be part of the dialogue on automation, now that autonomous vessels are being designed and tested. We also have to keep challenging the hysteria raised against the Jones Act – misinformation being spread to otherwise progressive legislators, through propaganda efforts at the Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation, where they hate the Jones Act because it provides good wages and working conditions for union maritime workers.”

He concluded on a hopeful note: “the IBU and MM&P have a good record of working together and we need to continue that work, like we’re doing to help folks at the Washington State Ferries, and the new federally-funded ferries in San Francisco Bay, and similar projects up and down the West Coast.”

Convention work begins

After the opening speakers and other formalities were finished on the first morning, convention delegates tackled an ambitious work plan that continued until 9 pm. An equally rigorous schedule was set for the next three days, with delegates divided into two groups: A “Passenger Industry Caucus” and a “Freight, Towing & Environmental Caucus.” Delegates in the Passenger Industry Caucus began with an in-depth workshop to analyze “lessons learned” from the Janus experience, led by veteran union trainer and economist, Mark Brenner from the University of Oregon’s Labor Education and Research Center. His skillful facilitation encouraged the room to explode with conversations as delegates compiled and shared their “best practices” and “mistakes to avoid.”

In a room next door, the Freight, Towing & Environmental Caucus began their meeting with an update from Coast Guard Lt. Chris Spring, who detailed the latest changes in federal certification and manning requirements for vessels. Delegates responded with many questions about the interpretation and enforcement of these safety-oriented rules administered by the Coast Guard. After finishing, Lt. Spring conducted a similar workshop with the Passenger Industry Caucus.

Automation hits IBU jobs

At separate sessions for the Ferry Caucus and Freight/Towing caucus, ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton and Local 400’s Jason Woods joined with MUA official Paul Garrett to discuss the hot topics of automation and cabotage. Ferry workers already saw automation replace jobs at Washington State and the Golden Gate District when automatic ticket machines replaced staff in kiosks. Now a new and different round of automation has created an immediate crisis for workers at Georgia Pacific’s paper goods warehouse on the Columbia River, where the company (owned by the Koch brothers) has just announced an automation plan that would destroy a majority of warehouse jobs. ILWU Canada’s Secretary-Treasurer Bob Dhaliwal has been tracking news articles about automation for years and provides them to ILWU members in a weekly email. The IBU will draw on information and experience from the ILWU and other unions in an effort to help warehouse workers and dozens of working families being hurt by the automation plan.


The word “cabotage” comes from the French and originally described coastal trading. It’s now become a legal term of art, referring to maritime trade between ports within a country. Almost 100 years ago, in 1920, Congress passed a law known as the “Jones Act,” requiring trade between U.S. ports to use vessels built, owned and operated by U.S. citizens. The Jones Act and other cabotage rules helped the U.S. build a merchant marine industry during the 1920’s. As time passed, the Jones Act protected good-paying maritime union jobs as global capitalism outsourced most vessels and crewmembers to countries with low wages, few regulations, no enforcement and weak unions. Corporations have been trying to kill the Jones Act since the end of the Second World War, and the fight continues.

“Every year, corporations try to attack cabotage laws in Australia, Canada, Europe and the U.S., and every year we have to beat them back,” said the MUA’s Paul Garrett. The battle in Australia became pitched last year, when the country’s anti-union/pro-business government announced plans to destroy cabotage laws. The latest threat is being battled with help from the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), a global network of unions that includes the IBU and ILWU. Paul Garrett attended a recent ITF meeting in Singapore this past October, where Terri Mast was elevated to become the group’s Second Vice Chair of Inland Waterways, a post she’s using to create a new Committee on Tugs and Towing.

“These international networks are important, said Garrett, noting how coordination between unions helped the MUA win their 1998 Patrick’s dispute involving an Australian Stevedoring company that tried to break the union. The ILWU played a critical role in that fight by refusing to handle Patrick’s cargo.

Apprenticeship programs

Throughout the convention, delegates made positive comments about two seamanship apprentice programs initiated by the IBU. The first was established in 1980 at the Tongue Point Job Corps Center in Astoria, Oregon. That program’s success over 38 years inspired Southern California’s IBU Region to recently launch a similar program. The Dispatcher has run previous reports on both programs and is planning future coverage. IBU Convention delegates agreed that the Tongue Point program is vitally important, and the union will be taking new steps to help educate cadets there about the role of maritime unions in their industry. One IBU member attending the Convention from the Bay Area was Aubrey Johnsson, who graduated from Tongue Point a few years ago and shared her valuable experiences with delegates, including how much she thought veteran IBU leaders and young cadets could benefit from more interaction.

The Southern California maritime apprentice program recently enrolled their first round of new cadets who are now focused on classroom studies. Efforts are underway to secure them field internships with union maritime employers.

Caucuses debate key issues

The Ferry Workers and Freight Caucuses both discussed state and federal legislation, along with political developments in CA, OR, WA and HI, including:

The Jones Act – This important law protecting union maritime jobs survived an attack last year by anti-union forces in Congress who falsely blamed the law for supply shortages in Puerto Rico following hurricane Maria’s $43 billion hit in 2017. Special efforts will be needed to reach a small but important number of progressive members in the House of Representatives who were influenced during the debate by antiunion myths and propaganda.

Environmental conflicts – Washington State delegates detailed their experience with a well-intentioned but deeply-flawed carbon tax ballot measure. It was defeated by voters – but re-opened longstanding tensions between the building trades and other unions over whether workers should take action to protect the planet from global warming, focus solely on jobs – or find a way to do both. One possible point of agreement is that workers should be protected from bearing the brunt of urgently needed changes.

This particular carbon tax measure was unintentionally drafted in a way that would have deeply cut the State’s Transportation and public ferry budget, making it a “no-deal” for the IBU. This painful experience highlighted the need for unions to be more involved with environmental groups so they can participate when environmental laws are conceived and drafted.

Industrial waterfront protection – Secretary-Treasurer Terri Mast opened this topic by noting that coastal cities must take steps now to protect their industrial waterfront lands or risk losing them – along with good-paying jobs. In Seattle, the IBU and ILWU are part of a successful coalition that joined forces with local business groups to protect Seattle’s working waterfront, especially in the South of Downtown (SODO) industrial area. The Mayor has since appointed ILWU member John Persak and Mast to a committee that will suggest solutions to save the City’s industrial waterfront.

Vocational training – In Washington State, the IBU has joined with vocational education advocates to see if they can require all schools in the state to provide a minimum number of vocational classes so working-class families can get training that leads to good-paying union jobs for their children.

Artic scramble – ILWU Alaska leader Dennis Young shared his efforts to monitor plans to route commercial vessel traffic through previously frozen areas of the artic. He described the aggressive scramble by countries and companies to enter areas that were unreachable until global warming began melting polar ice at an alarming rate. Besides opening shorter polar routes between Asia and Europe, he said companies want to drill for oil and gas in the outer continental shelf beneath the artic.

V.P. Olvera on Organizing

Tuesday began on a solemn note with a brief ceremony recognizing IBU members who passed since the last convention. Everyone stood in silence as names of the departed from every region were read into the official record.

Newly-elected International Vice President Bobby Olvera, Jr., thanked the IBU for inviting him to observe and participate at the convention, then quickly jumped into what he called “new changes that are coming to the ILWU.” He said the changes would include better communications, new education modules and a “return to our roots” when it comes to organizing. He said the officers recently held their first National Organizing Committee meeting and would hold more each quarter, probably scheduled before or after International Executive Board meetings.

He said there would be greater coordination with Hawaii, and a willingness to pursue long-term organizing campaigns that make sense from a strategic standpoint. “We talk a lot about solidarity, but don’t always walk the walk,” he said. “There should never be an ILWU campaign that doesn’t involve every ILWU local in a 100-mile radius, so everyone knows what the issues are, who the people are, and what’s at stake for all of us.” He closed by saying the ILWU can help “re-build the house of labor in a progressive way, by working with other progressive unions, including nurses, teachers and others who share our vision of helping the entire working class.”

Ferris urges courage and action

Newly-elected ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris was next, and he began by challenging delegates to “search for opportunities among all the challenges we face, including hostility to unions from many politicians.”

Ferris continued, “We’re up against a wealthy and well organized ruling class that doesn’t care about the working class. So giving a couple of bucks to politicians during campaign time just isn’t going to cut it. We have to be more involved with our local communities. We need to promote social justice and environmental issues. We must reach out and embrace everyone with common concerns, whether its opposing discrimination in the LGBT community or supporting a neighborhood concerned about pollution.” Ferris offered his cell number to all the delegates and made a point of attending workshops and sessions throughout the convention.

Hawaii organizing

Veteran International Vice President for Hawaii, Wesley Furtado, greeted delegates with a warm “aloha!” then recalled his close relationships with all four IBU Regional Directors in Hawaii who have served during his 18-year tenure. Furtado explained his latest organizing effort involves securing first contracts for supervisors on the docks who recently joined the ILWU. The effort started in Hawaii, then spread to the mainland where supervisors in Southern California also joined the ILWU, despite management’s strong objection.

Furtado also explained how the ILWU’s longstanding strength and reputation in Hawaii has made them the “go-to” union when workers want to organize.

“We represent all kinds of workers from all kinds of backgrounds,” he said, citing a diverse list, including, “supermarkets, graveyards, hotels, spas, golf courses, agricultural workers, coffee, candy, beer distribution and more. The members include Filipinos, Chinese, Japanese, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and more.” Furtado concluded by saying “mahalo,” thanking delegates before leaving the podium.

Organizing panel

The convention heard from two ILWU staffers who are responsible for executing the ILWU’s organizing strategy: Assistant Organizing Director Ryan Dowling who supervises the overall program, and Senior Organizer Jon Brier who is assigned to the Puget Sound Region. Dowling did a good job describing the ILWU’s current campaigns, including the effort to train and mobilize workers against the Janus decision that targeted public employees. Another campaign he explained involves hundreds of veterinary hospital workers – including some located in Seattle, with others around Portland and San Francisco. He also explained efforts underway  to help workers organize in the legal marijuana industry.

Jon Brier covered some recent IBU organizing efforts, including one to help fuel dock workers in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. He praised the effort by IBU rank-and-file organizer Adam Dalton who played a key role in the campaign by training workers, involving ILWU members, recruiting civil rights groups, and cultivating community support. Despite the hard work by everyone involved, flaws in the law allowed the company to eventually fire union leaders and decertify the union. Brier has devoted much of his time this year to helping public employees, including ferry workers in Washington State and Alaska, respond in a positive way to the antiunion Janus decision, by organizing member-to-member conversations to keep workers in the union.

Resolutions set policy

Much of the remaining time at the convention was devoted to drafting, amending and debating resolutions on a wide range of issues and concerns. (See the sidebar for a summary of resolutions passed by delegates.)

Next convention in 2021

Before closing the IBU’s 24th Convention, President Secchitano thanked the 45 delegates and 20 guests for their hard work and commitment. “Each of you came here because you care about your union and then spent the past four days contributing ideas and suggestions to help us do a better job. Thank you on behalf of all 4,000 IBU members for your time and effort.” The gavel then came down and the convention adjourned with a new course for navigating the next three years until the 2021 Convention.

Categories: K1. Business Unions

President William “Willie” Adams leads new union team: ILWU’s first African-American President is elected

ILWU - Wed, 10/31/2018 - 09:22

SAN FRANCISCO – The ILWU’s first contested election in 18 years has yielded a new union leadership team led by William “Willie” Adams, along with Vice President (Mainland) Robert “Bobby” Olvera, Jr., Vice-President (Hawaii) Wesley Furtado, and Secretary-Treasurer Edwin “Ed” Ferris. Also elected were incumbent Coast Committeemen Frank Ponce De Leon and Cam Williams.

“Our team intends to carry forward the ILWU’s progressive tradition into the 21st Century,” said Adams, who was raised in Kansas City and worked as a longshoreman at the Port of Tacoma, Washington, before coming to San Francisco where he has served as International Secretary-Treasurer since 2003.  The ILWU’s 2018 election was conducted during the summer with results certified yesterday in a vote by the union’s International Executive Board.

Adams, who also serves as Vice-President on San Francisco’s Port Commission, said he and his team are “ready to meet the political and economic challenges ahead by involving our rank-and-file membership to help working families in our union and communities.”  Adams and his team will serve for three-year terms.

The ILWU represents 50,000 members working in California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Alaska, Canada and Panama

Categories: K1. Business Unions

Indoor heat kills & injures workers, so why isn’t there a law to stop it?

ILWU - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 15:31

Cal-OSHA Standard Board: Shown here in 2016, the Board is deciding whether to adopt an indoor heat standard to protect workers while employers try tokill or water-down any new rule.

When workers go to work during the summer months at Rite Aid’s Distribution Center in the Mojave Desert, their million-square-foot steel building without air conditioning can sometimes feel like an oven.

Danger is real

Laboring inside hot buildings has long been recognized by workers and medical experts as dangerous, but employers have successfully blocked state and federal laws to protect workers.

Local 26 President Luisa Gratz is trying to change that by working with a team of volunteers and medical experts – coordinated by the Worksafe! Advocacy group – who are pressing Cal-OSHA to adopt a new “indoor heat standard.” Gratz knows firsthand how dangerous a hot building can be for employees; she once worked in a facility where co-workers passed-out from the high heat.

One death is too many
“A worker died a decade ago at the Rite Aid warehouse in Lancaster when it was hot,” she says. “It’s outrageous, but the history of health and safety laws in the U.S. seems to be based on the principle that workers have to die before protections can be passed.”

Protections long overdue

Gratz is aware of workers in many other warehouses and offices who have experienced symptoms of heat stress and heat exhaustion that include passing out on the job. She says a law protecting employees against hazardous indoor heat is long overdue, recalling that when Rite Aid workers formed their union 10 years ago, they were motivated in part by the death of a coworker believed to be the first victim of heat inside their warehouse. That tragedy sparked workers to organize and negotiate the first indoor heat contract language for warehouse workers in the nation. Their action forced management to install evaporative coolers and provide additional water breaks when indoor temperatures spiked. “It was a good start, but with climate change creating hotter conditions, we need stronger protections,” said Gratz.

Searching for support in Sac


Gratz and other union supporters have spent years urging Cal-OSHA’s Standards Board in Sacramento to pass regulations with teeth to protect workers from excessive indoor heat. Stronger regulations were passed by the legislature at one point, only to be vetoed by then-Governor Schwarzenegger at the request of business interests. The 7-member Board appointed by Governor Brown now has two vacancies and is hampered by industry lobbyists who often slow progress to a crawl and undermine even the smallest reforms. The situation with OSHA in Washington, D.C. is even worse, with President Trump, now rolling-back workplace protections.

Brown bows to business

Not long ago, the possibility of passing indoor heat protections in California looked promising after Governor Brown appointed Ellen Widess, a strong worker advocate, to head Cal- OSHA. But after several years, industry groups ganged-up against Widess, and eventually forced her to resign. The shakeup further emboldened industry groups who won a more “business friendly” approach to workplace safety at the expense of workers. Today, Cal- OSHA plods along with too few inspectors (far less per-capita than Oregon and Washington) and too little clout to punish employers who continue killing roughly 400 workers per year, a number that has held steady for most of the decade.

Gratz says the rule-making process is frustrating, but she and others remain determined to keep pushing for statewide indoor heat protections. Her work is part of a larger coalition effort that includes unions and safety advocates operating under the banner of “Worksafe!” – a statewide network that includes the ILWU. Gratz and others sent a letter to Cal-OSHA this past June, detailing the criteria for a good indoor heat standard:

  • The trigger for worker protection should be based on a “heat-index” that combines temperature and humidity. Industry opposes the index in favor of a weaker standard based only on “dry bulb” temperature. Gratz says a “wet bulb” temperature test that includes humidity provides a more accurate measurement and is crucial to protect workers.
  • The trigger heat-index should be set at 80 degrees, the number originally proposed by Cal-OSHA experts. Industry lobbyists raised it to 85 degrees, a move Gratz and others described as a “step backward” that contributes to heat exhaustion, heat stress, other illness and death.
  • They stated workers who labor outside are already covered by a state law requiring mandatory shade breaks for temperatures over 80 degrees, so indoor workers should have the same protection.
  • Industry wants indoor heat protections for only a narrow list of named industries – excluding workers not specifically mentioned. Gratz and others want a standard covering all indoor workplaces, including offices and freight containers.
  • Workers operating inside hot structures and offices should be guaranteed hourly “cool-down” breaks, but the California Chamber of Commerce and other groups oppose these protections.
  • The proposed standard would guarantee that workers shall be able to choose a representative of their choice to monitor employer compliance with these protections. This proposed Cal-OSHA standard would help workers with and without unions.

Details of these and many other parts of the proposed Indoor Heat Rules are still being debated by the Cal-OSHA Standards Board – and sandbagged by industry lobbyists. The challenge is something Gratz has met before, but continues to fight for worker health and safety.

“Meaningful change for workers only happens when there’s pressure from below,” she says. “Top management gets to make their decisions from air conditioned offices while folks on the floor are sweating to meet their production quotas. Changing that kind of injustice requires people to be organized, united and speak-up.”

Categories: K1. Business Unions

51st annual Pacific Coast Pensioners convenes in Portland

ILWU - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 12:43

Pensioner power trio: (L-R) Canadian Pensioners Club President Tom Dufresne, PCPA President Greg Mitre and Local 142 Pensioner/Memorial Association
Director Clayton Dela Cruz, each shared their views about the union’s future.

The Pacific Coast Pensioners Association (PCPA) held their 51st Annual Convention from September 16-19 in Portland, OR. A total of 154 people attended this year’s meeting including 88 PCPA delegates who tackled issues ranging from Long Term Health Care Insurance to the importance of getting out- the-vote for pro-union candidates in the November mid-term elections.

The convention was dedicated to the memory of pensioners who have passed since the last convention.

Elected officers from the International and local unions included ILWU Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams, Local 13 President Mark Mendoza, Local 63 President Joe Gasperov, Local 10 President Melvin Mackay, Local 10 Secretary- Treasurer Farless Daily, and Local 8 President Bruce Holte. Also attending were Vanetta Hamlin and Trevor McCoy from the Bay Area Longshoremen’s Memorial Association (BALMA). Those unable to attend this year’s event due to the ILWU Hawaii Convention included International President Robert McEllrath, Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe, Vice President (Hawaii) Wesley Furtado and Coast Committeemen Frank Ponce De Leon and Cam Williams who all sent their regards.

Support for Dave Arian

PCPA President Greg Mitre began the proceedings with an announcement about Southern California Pensioner Dave Arian, who has been an active PCPA member since he retired from his waterfront career that included serving as ILWU International President and President of Local 13.

Mitre said Arian is fighting a rare form of thyroid cancer that prevented him from attending this year’s convention. “Dave has a love for the ILWU that runs deeper than I have ever known. It probably hurts Dave more to be missing the convention than we miss having him here,” Mitre said. On the convention’s last day, Mitre used his phone to place a video call that allowed Arian to see and hear the expressions of love and support coming to him from delegates and guests.

Guest speakers

Mitre then introduced Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith who is running for a seat on the Portland City Council. Commissioner Smith spoke about the important role of pensioners in our political system and praised the work by labor unions to protect wages and working conditions of all workers. “Without you, there would be no America,” Smith said.

ILWU Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams was introduced and declared that he had attended each of the PCPA conventions during the past 14 years. “For me it all starts with the PCPA and I wanted to come and pay my respects for all that you have done for us,” Adams said.

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley was unable to attend the convention in person, but sent a video message thanking the pensioners for their decades of work as active ILWU members, and congratulating them for securing good wages and pensions. “You recognize the critical role that labor plays in our society,” Merkley said, noting the role played by union members in passing social security, unemployment insurance, Medicare and Medicaid. He warned that “powerful and privileged forces are now trying to undermine workers’ rights and workers’ pay,” he said. Merkley expressed concern about Trump’s trade wars, saying it could slow down the economy by 3-4 percent and reduce work on the waterfront.

“Our country is at a crossroads,” he said. “Will we continue to provide a foundation built by workers and the labor movement, or do we allow the powerful and privileged to stack the deck and rig the system against working Americans?”

Local 13 President Mark Mendoza was asked to say a few words by Mitre. He spoke about the registration of new longshore workers in Southern California, criticizing employers for how long it takes “causals” to become registered longshore workers. “The average age of newly registered workers was 43 years old,” Mendoza said. He also spoke about Local 13’s political action efforts, explaining they have been very active and are trying to use the Local’s influence to help ILWU members and other workers. He closed by thanking pensioners for their work: “I appreciate what you have done to make my life better.”

PCPA President’s report

Mitre began his President’s report by recapping the ILWU General Convention held this past June, and noting the coming change in ILWU leadership.

“For the first time in many years, we will have three new Titled Officers,” said Mitre, highlighting a few of the important resolutions passed at the ILWU convention, including one allowing Panama Canal Division members to vote in the recent ILWU International elections. He also called attention to a resolution passed by ILWU’s Longshore Caucus which approved a $100,000 donation to create a fellowship at the University of Washington in honor of Local 19 member, Frank Jenkins Jr. (see September 2018 issue of the Dispatcher).

Mitre said the ILWU has been fortunate in recent years because cargo has been flowing freely and trade is booming. He reported that the ports of LA and Long Beach will move more containers this year than since 2007 on the eve of the Great Recession. One reason, he said, for today’s high cargo volumes is the effort to avoid the new trade tariffs being levied by the Trump Administration. “We’re at a crossroads in global trade,” Mitre said. “Right now the administration has put tariffs on about 25 percent of goods flowing through LA and Long Beach, but they’re proposing to hit 50 percent of goods in the next round.”

Mitre said that if these tariffs go into effect, it might impact cargo from Canada to San Diego. “I’m not just talking containers, I’m talking about apples, forestry products, automobiles, all break bulk, steel—everything that we touch, coming in and going out, will be effected.”

Mitre said pensioners should be helping active members by tackling the tariff issue – which is best done by voting themselves and getting other to vote in the midterms. “We need a Congress willing to be a check on Trump’s disastrous trade policies,” he said. Mitre also noted the unfortunate decline in the number of members who participate in union meetings. Like the tariff issue, he said pensioners can play a helpful role by educating active members and casuals about the need to participate in democratic union\ meeting – especially the need to reach members who don’t come from union backgrounds. “It’s a big problem, but we’re in a position to help with that problem,” he said.

Labor Day march

Mitre reported that this year’s Labor Day celebration in Wilmington, CA., was a huge success with over 6,000 people – making it the largest parade on the West Coast. The Southern California Pensioners Group sponsored a pre-parade breakfast of pancakes, eggs, sausages and burritos at the Longshoremen’s Memorial Hall. They served 2,000 people, with Mitre making a point that “Some of the people we served were ILWU members, some were not. Some were union members, and some were not. But we opened our doors to the entire community.” He said everyone was also welcome at the huge picnic that followed the march.

Vice President’s Report

Calling-out greed: PCPA Vice President and longtime Local 10 leader Lawrence
Thibeaux criticized the practice of taking double shifts instead of sharing the work.

PCPA Vice President Lawrence Thibeaux spoke about this year’s Bloody Thursday celebration held at the Longshoremen’s Memorial Hall in San Francisco. His talk covered the history and meaning behind  Bloody Thursday – including the ultimate sacrifices made in 1934 by seven waterfront strikers killed in Wilmington, San Francisco, Seattle, and Hong Kong. “What makes our union strong is the strength of the rank-and-file,” Thibeaux said.

He went on to criticize what he sees as a growing problem of greed among some ILWU workers who are eroding union solidarity. Thibeaux singled-out the practice of “doubling” in which a worker takes two shifts instead of sharing the work with follow union sisters and brothers. “The hiring hall was created to equalize work and end abuse – and both were fundamental principles of the 1934 strike,” he said.

PCPA Poet Laureate Jerry Brady

The convention’s second day started with a poem from Southern California pensioner Jerry Brady, the official Poet Laureate of the PCPA. The poem, “Lest We Forget” was an homage to longshore workers and the hard work required of them on the waterfront.

ILWU Hawaii Pensioner Clayton Dela Cruz

The first speaker of the morning was ILWU Local 142 pensioner Clayton Dela Cruz who serves as Director of the ILWU Memorial Association in Hawaii and Secretary-Treasurer of the Kekaha Sugar Pensioners Club. Dela Cruz spoke about the history, structure and funding of the pensioner

clubs in Hawaii. He said the ILWU pensioner programs go back 60 years in Hawaii, with the ILWU Memorial Association helping to fund 20 pensioner clubs statewide. The groups gather every two years and have held 29 bi-annual conferences to date in Hawaii. “We rotate our meetings among the islands with funding help from the Memorial Association,” said Dela Cruz, who noted that some of the clubs are connected to county senior programs which allow the groups to use county resources for meeting sites and activities.

Like their counterparts on the mainland, club meetings in Hawaii feature topical speakers, social activities, excursions, participation in picket lines and political action including voter mobilization, education, phone banking and other “Get Out The Vote” efforts. Hawaii pensioners’ clubs are also affiliated with Hawaii’s Alliance of Retired Americans, a network of retired of union members that enables them to work together for a stronger political voice.

Benefits Specialist & ADRP reps
ILWU Coast Benefits Specialist John Castanho joined with Benefit Plan Area Directors and coordinators for the Alcohol and Drug Recovery Program (ADRP) to provide delegates with news from each program. Also present were representatives from the ILWU/ PMA Benefit Plans Office (BPO). These experts gave short presentations and made themselves available to answer questions and provide updates about health and pension plans.

Pensioners were reminded to update the Benefits Plan Office whenever they move or switch bank accounts to prevent any delays in getting checks or disrupting direct deposits. The Puget Sound Area Director Andrea Stevenson also encouraged pensioners to get their paperwork in order for illness and end of life concerns – including a will, power of attorney and advance care directive – and submit copies to the Benefits Plans Office so they can have those documents on file and easily accessible. She said having that paperwork at the BPO makes it much easier on family members in case someone becomes incapacitated.

The Convention bid farewell to Tyler Gorton, Area Welfare Director for the Columbia River and Oregon Coast Area, who is retiring in October. They welcomed Martha Hendricks who will serve as the new Area Welfare Director for that region.

ILWU Canada Report

Tom Dufresne, former President of ILWU Canada and current President of the Canadian Pensioners Club, gave a brief report about their activities during the past year. He said pensioners had successfully replaced a plaque commemorating the 1945 explosion aboard the S.S. Green Hill Park in Vancouver harbor that killed two seamen and six longshore workers. The original plaque had been removed and lost during a recent construction project.

Dufresne also spoke about their annual ceremony honoring the Battle of Ballantyne Pier, site of a famous dockworkers strike in Vancouver, BC, in June 1935. Dufresne said that shortly before this year’s ceremony, the monument commissioned by the ILWU to commemorate the strike was vandalized with a sledge hammer. He said the resulting publicity about the attack sparked interest from a local arts group to write a play about the Battle of Ballantyne that will be performed in 2019. “This act of vandalism has made a new generation aware of our history,” Dufresne said.

He closed by explaining that pensioners have been working with other retirees and community groups to tackle issues including homelessness and better access to healthcare and dental coverage for all Canadians.

Oral History Committee

The convention heard a report presented by Connor Casey, Director of the University of Washington’s Labor Archives, who was joined by and ILWU historians Harvey Schwartz and Ron Magden. The trio serve on the PCPA’s Oral History Committee. Casey spoke about the ongoing efforts to preserve records and provide access to the history of West Coast longshore workers and the ILWU. The effort is made possible with support from the University of Washington, the ILWU, the Coast Longshore Division and PCPA.

Magden and Schwartz spoke about the Oral History Committee’s work to record life and work histories of ILWU pensioners. The project began in 2013 and has collected over 40 videotaped interviews. The interviews cover a diverse range of locals, regions, and occupations from a racially diverse group made up of male and female ILWU members.

Casey said that 21 of the interviews have been transcribed and are currently available online, with an additional 13 available soon. These oral histories can be accessed at:

Long Term Care Committee

The Tuesday afternoon session was devoted to extensive presentations on 401(k) management and retirement planning along with a report by the Long Term Care Committee. The Committee has been researching options for a Long Term Health Care Insurance benefit. Long term health care insurance would help cover the costs of care for chronic medical conditions or disabilities that many seniors face in their later years. The committee is chaired by Bay Area Pensioner George Romero and has been meeting weekly via conference calls. The group has researched options for a Long Term Health Care benefit and worked closely with insurance experts and consultants to address this difficult problem. The information will be shared with the Coast Pension and Welfare Committee.


The convention passed several resolutions including a proposal requesting a change to Article XXII of the ILWU Constitution that would require materials using the ILWU logo to be made or printed by union labor. Another resolution requested the ILWU International Executive Board to develop a policy based on the Election Rules of the ILWU Constitution to prohibit anyone from conducting union business on social media. This resolution, if acted on by the International Executive Board, could be considered by delegates to the 2021 Convention.

Another resolution recommended that the ILWU study ways to increase attendance at membership meetings and provide educational materials to implement the recommendations. Delegated also acted on a motion for the PCPA to fund a pensioner from Panama to attend next year’s PCPA Convention.

Finally, the convention adopted a proposal calling for the creation of a PCPA Education Committee to help bridge efforts by the International and local union to educate members about union history, parliamentary procedures, how to participate in union meetings.

“We feel a need to educate both members and the casual workforce,” said Mitre. “It’s difficult for locals to educate casuals because they are not registered workers or union members. It’s much easier for the pensioners because we are not part of the active workforce,” said Mitre.

Election of Officers

The PCPA held their election of officers for the coming year, choosing Greg Mitre to continue as PCPA President, Lawrence Thibeaux as Vice President and Christine Gordon as Treasurer. Yolanda Nuhi was elected as Recording Secretary. Nuhi replaced Kenzie Mullen, who announced she was stepping down – and being thanked by Convention delegates for her service.

Stranahan Award winner: Barbara Lewis is the first woman to be recognized for “going above and beyond the call of duty” in her efforts to help PCPA members. She chaired this year’s Host Committee and was honored at the PCPA
banquet in memory of Jesse and Louis Stranahan.

Stranahan Award

This year’s awards banquet saw the Jesse and Lois Stranahan Award presented to Barbara Lewis who chaired this year’s Host Committee. The Stranahan Award is given to an individual who represents the values of the ILWU and goes beyond the call of duty. Lewis is the first woman to receive the award.

Next year’s PCPA Convention will be held in Vancouver, B.C. in September of 2019.

Categories: K1. Business Unions