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International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU)

Longshore Workers Vote to Oppose Coal Exports in Oakland

Staff Report - ILWU.Org, September 18, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Longshore workers and marine clerks who have moved cargo at the Ports of Oakland and San Francisco since 1934 have rejected a developer’s plan to export coal through former Oakland Army Base. International Longshore and Warehouse Union elected officials say coal is an undesirable, low-value cargo and a broken promise on the part of the developer, and longshore workers are standing by community members who do not want the worry and risks of nine million tons of coal passing through their neighborhoods on trains each year. After much research and discussion, the rank and file members of ILWU Local 10 and ILWU Local 34 have voted to oppose the handling of coal at the site.

“When the developers of the project were seeking tax money and public support to develop the Oakland Army Base, they talked about exporting cargoes like grain and potash,” said Sean Farley, President of ILWU Local 34. “They made a ‘no coal’ promise to workers, the community and elected officials, and they need to make good on that promise. Waterfront space is in short supply on the West Coast, and it would be a mistake to lock Oakland into a decades-long lease with a coal industry that many say is dying. Coal proposals have failed up and down the West Coast, and Oakland shouldn’t become the dumping ground for dirty, low value cargoes that no one else wants.”

After the Oakland City Council granted the California Capital and Investment Group (CCIG) the right to develop the former army base adjacent to the Port of Oakland, CCIG planned to build the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT) on the site. CCIG has since turned its “no coal” promise into a “coal or nothing” threat, claiming no other cargo will pay the bills. Meanwhile, other West Coast ports are thriving while exporting products like grain, potash, soda ash, salt, and other commodities and bulk products.

“Coal is not the right way to bring jobs to Oakland,” said ILWU Local 10 Business Agent Derrick Muhammad. “Oakland families are already worried about asthma and other sickness because of highways and port activities. It’s not right to ask them to take on the worry and risk of nine million tons of coal passing through their neighborhoods on trains each year. If the developers haven’t found a cleaner, safer product yet, they owe it to the City of Oakland to make good on their promise and keep looking. They’ll find better cargoes if they are truly committed to bringing good, safe jobs to our community.”

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s Coast Longshore Division represents approximately 25,000 longshore men and women in 30 West Coast ports from San Diego, CA, to Bellingham, WA.

East Bay Labor Unions Say 'No' to Coal in Oakland

By Darwin BondGraham - East Bay Express, September 18, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The official voice of the labor movement in the East Bay has come out against plans to export coal from Oakland. This morning, the Alameda Labor Council’s executive committee passed a resolution opposing the export of coal from the bulk commodity terminal planned for construction at the city’s former Army Base.

The resolution cites health hazards and environmental harms that are likely to result from shipping and storing coal in West Oakland — hazards that will impact both workers and Oakland residents.

“Jobs involving coal are unhealthy and unsafe due to dust emissions; coal is increasingly an anti-union industry,” states the resolution. “West Oakland residents are already twice as likely to visit the emergency room for asthma as the average Alameda County resident, and are also more likely to die of cancer, heart and lung disease… .”

Terminal Logistics Solutions, the company proposing coal exports from the terminal, has claimed that the facility will be served by covered rail cars to reduce the amount of coal dust that drifts into nearby neighborhoods. TLS recently unveiled sketches on its website depicting dome-covered silos and enclosed conveyor belts that will store and load the coal onto ships for export overseas.

Opponents of the coal plan have said, however, that covered rail cars, silos and chutes are not used anywhere in the United States today, and their efficacy hasn’t been studied.

The Labor Council’s resolution states that despite the unions’ “unified opposition to coal,” they believe that the project can move forward without coal. Their resolutions welcomes commodities such as steel, wood, grains, sand, gravel ,and other "non-hazardous materials."

A special meeting of the Oakland City Council is scheduled for Monday. The city clerk’s office has already received more than three hundred speaker cards from members of the public.

How Do We 'Change Everything' without Pitting Workers against the Planet?

By Alexandra Bradbury; image by Sam Churchill - Labor Notes, September 8, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

As fights erupted in the Pacific Northwest this summer over fuel export terminals and Arctic drilling, the idea of a just transition has been on my mind.

The late Tony Mazzocchi of the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers (now part of the Steelworkers) coined the term. A “just transition” away from fossil fuels wouldn’t pit workers against the planet. Those displaced should be able to count on decent new green jobs and retraining.

“There’s a Superfund for dirt,” Mazzocchi used to say. “There ought to be one for workers.”

SHELL NO?

As Shell Oil’s drilling rig and ice cutter churned toward the Arctic, activists in Seattle and Portland, paddling kayaks and dangling from cables, tried to block them. Some unions backed the protests, but not the usually progressive Longshore Workers (ILWU).

Servicing Shell’s fleet will provide “an awful lot of family-wage jobs,” said Justin Hirsch, an ILWU Local 19 executive board member—at a time when condo developers are eyeing the waterfront and longshore jobs are squeezed by shipping industry consolidation.

Don’t get him wrong. Hirsch also says “climate change is a massive issue, and it’s going to have to be dealt with by labor.”

But he’s worried the shift to a green economy offers employers an opportunity to destroy the pay, benefits, and workplace control it took generations of struggle to achieve. Will green jobs be lower-waged and nonunion?

EcoUnionist News #52

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 16, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Fracking the EPA:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

1267-Watch:

Carbon Bubble:

Just Transition:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism

Labor Movement Malpractice: Relinquishing the Fight for Workplace Health and Safety

By Garrett Brown - Portside, January 28, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

An underlying theme of California's most prominent union organizing campaigns in recent years-among warehouse workers east of Los Angeles, carwasheros in Los Angeles proper, and recycling workers in Oakland and southern California-has been worker concerns about unsafe and unhealthy conditions at work.  As labor visionaries like Tony Mazzocchi predicted, workers are deeply concerned about and can be successfully organized around workplace health and safety issues.  Rank-and-file concerns about health and safety, however, have not been taken up by union officials or lobbyists who view health and safety as a lower priority than labor legislation or gubernatorial appointees.

As a result, labor officials in California have passively watched as Democratic Governor Jerry Brown put California's state workplace health and safety agency-Cal/OSHA or DOSH-on a starvation diet. Since 2011, the agency has employed fewer field inspectors and has counted on lesser enforcement resources than under Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The unions also stood quietly by (with a couple of notable exceptions) when Ellen Widess, appointed as chief of Cal/OSHA in April 2011, was forced to resign in September 2013 following an intense employer campaign against her.

Cal/OSHA under Widess worked with Warehouse Workers United to identify the many hazards facing warehouse workers (heat, forklifts, falls) and to cite both the warehouse operators and the temporary staffing agencies as the workers' employers.  Cal/OSHA seriously investigated hotel workers' ergonomic complaints (UNITE HERE); health care workers' concerns about workplace violence and assaults (SEIU and CNA); and recycling workers' exposure to chemicals, biological, and mechanical hazards in the "green" industry (Longshore and Teamsters unions).  Yet the state's labor officials' and lobbyists' strategy of maintaining access and friendly relations with Brown and his appointees-at all costs-has undermined the resources at Cal/OSHA and led to the weakening of enforcement and worker protections.

EcoUnionist News #23

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, January 17, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Carbon Bubble:

Green Jobs and Just Transition:

Other News of Interest:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC

California Port Gridlock: Labor Disputes May End Up Costing Billions

By Alex Lubben - In These Times, November 14, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

West Coast ports are stuck in gridlock. Earlier this week, truck drivers were waiting for as long as seven hours at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to try to retrieve single containers of cargo. The backup at these ports, which handle the majority of shipments from Asia, is threatening the timely delivery of billions of dollars’ worth of holiday goods.

The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents the docking companies at ports along the West Coast, blamed the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) for the initial slowdown, accusing the union of refusing to dispatch skilled workers at the ports, creating backups that are part of an attempt to gain leverage in contract negotiations. The union—whose workers have been without a contract since July—has denied that they are intentionally clogging the port’s flow of goods.

The “orchestrated job actions,” as PMA refers to the alleged slowdown, began at ports in the Pacific Northwest and has since spread to the Los Angeles-Long Beach (LA-LB) ports. PMA claims that the ILWU informed them that they would stop dispatching qualified workers.

ILWU denied this in a press release issued on November 10:

Obscuring months of data regarding the non-labor related causes of the current crisis-level congestion problem, PMA’s Texas-based public relations firm announced that the ILWU was the cause bringing “the port complex to the brink of gridlock.” The public relations firm also propagandized about the ILWU, its leadership, and false claims of safety issues.

ILWU Local 6, strikes Waste Management. AFL-CIO leaders tell their members to scab.

By Richard Mellor - Facts for Working People, October 26, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The ILWU Local 6 represents sorters and other workers at the Waste Management recycling center (we used to call them dumps) at the end of Davis Street in San Leandro CA. The workers have not had a raise in four years.

Most of the workers are Latino's, many of them immigrants and they complained to me about disrespect and discriminatory treatment on the job. Workers told Facts For Working People that management is refusing to budge on wage increases and workers don't trust the management to comply with the Oakland City Council's meager wage increase provisions which would raise wages from round $12 an hour now to around $21 an hour by 2019. This is the only possible increase on the table so far. It is a sorry state of affairs when the only chance of making any headway albeit an inadequate one, is relying on a municipal body run by politicians in one of the two Wall Street Parties.

As I walked the picket line, drivers for Waste Management, members of Teamsters Local 70,  drove through the picket lines as the strike does not have sanction from the Alameda Labor Council.  I called the Labor Council to find out why and was told that the ILWU local 6 is no longer affiliated to the AFL-CIO.  The source said that she hoped the strike is successful.  Unfortunately hope doesn't pay the rent and it doesn't win strikes.

Railroad Worker Jen Wallis: "The Fence is Capitalism...It's Time to Take it Down!"

By Jen Wallis - exclusive, September 21, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Editor's note: Jen Wallis meant to give the following speech at the People's Climate March in Seattle on Sunday, September 21, 2014, but had to abbreviate it due to time constraints. Here is the entire speech she would have given:

Hi my name is Jen Wallis, and I’m a founding member of Railroad Workers United. We are a rank-and-file caucus of the various national and international railroad unions. A few of us started this organization to respond to the decades of infighting created by the carriers to keep us divided.

I've been a conductor with BNSF Railway for over ten years. In 2008, I was injured on the job through no fault of my own. I was one of the first workers to file a whistleblower suit against a major railroad for retaliation for reporting a work-related injury. After 6 years of litigation, I won my case in Federal Court this past March, so I know a little bit about what it takes to fight corporations and what they will do to you and your family. I lost much of my support system, and I lost my house to foreclosure. And just as a side note, I first met Kshama Sawant when she showed up and got arrested for those of us fighting foreclosure. She is amazing!!! Over 1,000 railroaders who filed similar complaints have lost. I’m one of a handful to have won. The railroads have a lot of money to fight you, and they usually win.

I’ve taken it upon myself to use my victory to speak out for safety on the railroad because I’m one of the few people who can and not get fired for it, and I was actually in San Francisco speaking at a labor conference this past July when I got word that a group of unelected union officials from the conductor’s union had been meeting in secret with BNSF for 18 months, and unleashed a proposal that would have ended the job of the conductor on freight trains right here in my territory. My job. One person running trains at least a mile long through our communities where there have always been at least two, and engineer and a conductor. 140 years of railroading tradition gone with one contract. All the railroads would follow that precedent.

So we at Railroad Workers United went into what I can only call DEFCON 1 organizing. We had less than a month to mount a campaign to vote no before ballots were to be sent out. There were plenty of carrots in the agreement being dangled for the huge numbers of new hires we have, with things like “worker retention board” which claimed if you can’t hold a job, we’ll pay you to sit at home and not work, ending pay scale for new hires, and huge buy-outs for those getting close to retirement anyway. It was the standard concessionary agreement. Now those of us who have been in the game long enough knew these were only empty promises. We’ve seen enough of these broken in our careers, but the massive numbers of new hires did not, and we saw what scare tactics do at places like Boeing. Unions usually don’t defeat concessionary contracts, even when those companies are swimming in profits.

We knew we had to be bold, as bold as they were. I immediately started a FB group to protest the meeting in Sea-Tac where the officers would be to give us the hard-sell pitch. Now railroaders aren’t allowed to strike, and we haven’t done much in terms of organizing anything since 1894. You won’t find many of us who have ever so much as held a sign on a picket line. So I invited people who are more comfortable with holding signs - I invited my environmentalist friends I’d been trying to build alliances with these last couple of years - people from Backbone, from 350.org, Rising Tide, and members of the more radical unions like the Teamsters and Teachers and ILWU, and they showed up for us. Jess Spear showed up for us. The media we got in Seattle from that little picket inspired towns all across the country to follow suit. In places like Greybull, Wyoming and Creston Iowa, we got the spouses and families out there holding signs, (probably for the first times in their life), because they know our jobs and how terrifying it would be to have their loved ones out on these dangerous trains by themselves working under extreme fatigue in every kind of weather. We added over 2,000 new members to our facebook group in a month, distributed thousands of stickers and flyers and talking points. Many of us put our lives on hold and spent every waking moment organizing around this.

Finally, on September 10th, less than two months after we first got wind of it, the results were in. From the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes to right here in the Pacific Northwest, our members voted that proposal down. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. But as sweet as that victory was, none of that means anything compared to this fight against climate change. I have a 9 year-old son. I read recently that by the time he is my age, at the rate we’re going, this planet will experience a mass extinction. Extinction! And I can’t help but wonder If I’ve really done enough to protect him from that future.

Now our recent victory was a huge inspiration to all of us. We now know what we have to do, and we know what it takes to do it. We understand completely now that we are fighting an industry that cares as much about us as they do the environment, which is not at all...It might seem a little scary for environmentalists to approach labor, and sometimes the feeling is mutual, but when my co-workers saw that tripod up in Everett with the sign that said “Cut Oil Trains, Not Conductors”, they were blown away. Nobody has stood up for us in a very long time. America has what I call an epidemic of fence-straddling. Most people like to be perched up there, listening to information from both sides and occasionally hopping down from one to the other based on the news we get or the friends we know or which side has the most money or slickest campaign. But my friends, the fence is an illusion. If we could all just step back for a minute and notice that big field we’ve been in together this entire time. The fence is capitalism and corporate plutocracy, and it’s time to take it down!!!

Unions That Used to Strike - The ILWU, once known for its militancy and political radicalism, faces a choice between nurturing rank-and-file power and a painful death

By Robert Brenner and Suzi Weissman - Jacobin, August 6, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In early July, 120 mostly poor and immigrant port truckers set up picket lines at three trucking companies in LA-Long Beach Harbor, extending their longstanding campaign to unionize. The next day, workers from the powerful and historically militant International Longshore and Warehouse Union honored the truckers’ picket by walking off their jobs, immediately shutting down three waterfront terminals.

The dockworkers had found themselves contractually free to refuse to cross the port truckers’ line, when their union’s agreement with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) had expired a short time before.

But almost immediately, a waterfront arbitrator ordered the longshoremen back to work. The ILWU had suddenly and without warning extended their agreement with the PMA for three days. Following the rules of their own contract, the union told its members to cross the truckers’ pickets and return to their jobs.

This action was in line with the ILWU’s informal pact with the PMA to maintain the flow of work after their contract had run out, and it snuffed out any potential the embryonic solidarity of the longshore workers and port truckers might have had to shift the balance of power between themselves and their employers.

In a small way, it encapsulated the two previous years of the union’s evolution.

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