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some articles regarding ILWU and government oppression

There are other sinister signs that "homeland security" is being used as a club to bash labor. The right wing is working fiercely to make the prospective new umbrella Homeland Security Agency non-union, again citing the paramountcy of national security. Once again this takes us back to the darkest days of domestic repression at the dawn of the Cold War.
West Coast dockers lash out at Bush union assault

Rajesh Joshi Lloyd's List 8 Aug 2002 National security overrules workers' rights

THE International Longshore and Warehouse Union has lashed out at the Bush administration for what it sees as an "illegal and inappropriate" intervention in the deadlocked waterfront contract negotiations on the US West Coast.

The outburst follows a revelation by a senior government official that Washington is prepared to block any strike or work slowdown at harbours if contract negotiations fail.

"We want President Bush to get the hell out of our negotiations," the union's communications director Steve Stallone told Lloyd's List.

The union backlash has added to the tension in west coast ports as the union prepares to resume suspended negotiations with the Pacific Maritime Association next Tuesday.

The union has not threatened a strike, but its members have given its negotiating committee the mandate to call one if talks fail. A protest rally called by the ILWU in Oakland on August 12 throws this situation into sharp relief.

The union's anger was prompted by a news report that quoted a senior attorney from the US Department of Labour outlining the government's plans in the event of strike action.

The most likely outcome would be for Mr Bush to declare a national emergency and invoke the Taft-Hartley Act, which would force workers to remain on their jobs for 80 days. Other measures could include sending in the National Guard or US Navy to take over harbours, or introducing legislation to curb dockers' rights to bargain collectively or to call a strike.

The official justified the possible use of troops on the backdrop of war, and added: "We will make sure our troops in the field get what they need." Mr Stallone reacted angrily to this statement. "We loaded military cargo even during the 1971 strike, when the Vietnam War was on," he said. "For President Bush, union rights mean national security."

A union leaflet handed out at west coast harbours proclaims: "We demand that Bush and the PMA stop using 'Homeland Security' as an excuse to militarise or federalise our ports in order to weaken the American labour movement."

Any effort to limit the union's bargaining ability or strike authority would likely take the shape of moving the union to the jurisdiction of the Railway Labour Act, which vests more power in the courts and the national government.

The government official described these as mere 'options' that were mentioned to the dockers' union.

But Mr Stallone accused government officials of making unwarranted 'threats' against its membership during face-to-face meetings, and demanded that the talks be allowed to proceed without any external pressure.

He said the government's covert presence has 'encouraged' the PMA to stall in negotiations.

The association says the union's clout and the ability to call a strike has kept it immune from any real bargaining in the past.

The two sides are haggling on a new contract to replace the one that expired on June 30. The association has offered to sweeten workers' total wage and benefits by 17% over five years, culminating in an average annual wage of $114,500 and $57,204 in benefits.

However, the two sides are at loggerheads on the issue of information technology. The union is prepared to forego 630 data-entry jobs in return for full control over ship planning, which involves the configuration of containers on ships.

The PMA is unwilling to accept this demand, on grounds that it would swell rather than diminish the union's ranks. Mr Stallone described the government's actions as a breach of the US National Labour Relations Act of 1935. "The Department of Labour is supposed to represent workers' rights in Washington," he said. "Instead, it is trying to take them away."

The union case could prove decisive in shaping workers' rights in the US under the Bush administration. But Mr Stallone said the union enjoyed the full support of other national organisations, including the AFL-CIO.


On the waterfront - labor solidarity vs. federal intervention

Jack Heyman San Francisco Chronicle 23 July 2002

The future of West Coast ports and their workers is on the line. As a labor battle intensifies, the possibility of federal intervention looms, which could spell more restrictions on democratic freedoms in a "post-terrorist" era. How did we arrive at this brink? A little background:

Ports along the West Coast account for nearly $300 billion in annual trade, or 7 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. The 11,000-strong union of dockworkers who move that cargo, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, is in contract negotiations in San Francisco with the Pacific Maritime Union, a group of global shipowners and terminal operators. Negotiations have been in a logjam since May, over what employers claim is the introduction of information technology.

Last week, in an effort to break that impasse, ILWU President Jim Spinosa in an unprecedented offer gave employers the ability to introduce technology that would eliminate many marine clerk positions, but asked that all remaining jobs be ILWU. Despite this concession, which will result in a significant loss of union jobs, PMA dismissed the offer as insufficient.

PMA has been hard-lining negotiations, using the ruse of computer technology in order to eliminate union jobs and the hiring hall, the source of the union's power. Moreover, employers are demanding givebacks in medical benefits in a "high hazard" industry. The ILWU is proud of the fact that its longshore contract sets a decent standard in benefits, working conditions and wages for organized labor on the West Coast and beyond.

In PMA's aggressive, anti-union propaganda, the company falsely claims that longshore workers' wages average over $100,000 (in truth, it's closer to half of that). According to the leading maritime industry trade publication, the Journal of Commerce (July 1-7,2002), "longshore labor costs account for such a small percentage of costs that a doubling of ILWU wages would barely produce a blip in overall expenses." So why does PMA's intransigence persist in negotiations?

For the past several years PMA President Joseph Miniace has been pushing hard for an increased role of the federal government in the maritime industry. The agenda: restrict trade union power on the docks by banning the right to strike. Since Sept.11, their lobbying has borne a strange fruit. Under the rubric of "national security" the impending Maritime Security Act and the passage of the USA Patriot Act will deny basic civil liberties, imposing background checks to screen port workers, the bulk of whom are either minority or immigrant workers.

Most ominous was the "Iron Heel" call from Homeland Security czar Tom Ridge to the ILWU president "suggesting" that national security interests would be better served if there were no strike. Continued negotiations without the right to strike means accepting the employers' terms. Clearly, Bush's laissez- faire policy means a free hand for big business while shackling labor.

Bush's rating in opinion polls is plummeting in tandem with the stock market, hammered by each new financial scandal, including his own business dealings. To bolster his ratings, Bush could invoke the Taft-Hartley Act to force longshoremen to keep working during the busiest shipping period.

The California AFL-CIO and the ILWU Longshore Contract Caucus are meeting this week simultaneously in San Francisco. If Bush invokes the slave-labor Taft-Hartley, it could become a rallying cry for the labor movement to challenge the repression of democratic and trade-union rights.

In a defining moment of the U. S. labor movement 20 years ago, leaders of the striking air traffic controllers' union, PATCO, under orders from President Reagan, were hauled off to jail in handcuffs. Isolation led to government union-busting. The ILWU, learning from that ignominious defeat for labor, has systematically forged strategic labor links. At the AFL-CIO convention in December, an historic transportation union pact was proclaimed between the Teamsters, East Coast longshore union, the ILA, and the ILWU.

Any waterfront conflict could quickly spread internationally. The ILWU helped launch the International Dockworkers Council (which grew out of the struggle of militant dockers in Liverpool, England, a few years ago), while maintaining its affiliation with the larger 5,000,000-member International Transport Workers Federation.

In the wake of capitalist globalization and privatization, dockworkers have faced intensified union-busting drives by the military and police in Mexico, Australia and Brazil. All eyes are set here on a powerful dockworkers' union, whose destiny may be determined as much in Washington as in San Francisco.

RALLY FOR PORT WORKERS - Where: 550 California, headquarters of Pacific Maritime Association. - When: Wednesday, noon - Speakers: San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown; California state Sen. John Burton; Art Pulaski, secretary/treasurer of California Labor Federation; Linda Chavez-Thompson, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO; Jim Spinosa, international president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union

- Contact: Port Workers Solidarity Committee: (415) 821-6545

Jack Heyman has been organizing ILWU solidarity actions since the 1984 anti-apartheid ship boycott, including actions for the Liverpool dockers, the Australian wharfies and the Charleston, S. C., longshoremen.


Anti-terrorism and Strike Breaking

Alexander Cockburn CounterPunch 27 June 2002

Fascist and Phoney War on Terrorism Being Used To Jusify Strike Breaking By Government

There are sinister signs that "homeland security" is being used as a club to bash labor. Proof that most so-called conservatives (as well as many liberals) support the creation of a fascist dictatorship.

At the rate things are going, it won't be long before labor organizers are being thrown into military prisons, held without warrant as "enemy combatants". Tom Ridge, director of the Office of Homeland Security has been phoning Jim Spinosa, head of the West Coast's Longshoremen's Union, saying that a strike would be bad for the national interest. Next Monday sees the expiration of the current three-year contract between the Longshoremen and the employers, grouped in the Pacific Maritime Association. If the 10,000-strong longshoremen go on strike, ports from Seattle to San Diego could shut down, meaning a big jolt to the already floundering US economy.

A call to Spinosa by the Secretary of Labor would not be surprising, given the stakes, but a call from the man in charge of coordinating the battle against terrorism on America's home turf confirms all the Left's deepest fears that, as so often throughout the twentieth century, national security is being used to justify strike-breaking, invocation of the Taft-Hartley Act and declarations of national emergency to shut down labor activism and if necessary throw labor organizers in jail. Longshoremen don't need to be told this. They know it's what happened to their most famous leader, Harry Bridges. In World War II the US government, particularly through the US Navy, cut deals with the Mob (mainly involving a hands-off posture on the drug trade), giving the Mobsters specific orders on which labor leaders to rough up and murder. Between 1942 and 1946 there were 26 unsolved murders of labor organizers and dockworkers, dumped in the water by the Mob, working in collusion with Navy Intelligence. (For more, read our book which contains a chapter on this nasty affair.)

Jack Heyman, business agent of the San Francisco Longshore Union (ILWU), tells CounterPunch that Ridge called Spinosa, the ILWU international president, about 7 to 10 days ago in the midst of negotiations. "He said that he didn't think it would be a good idea if there was a disruption in trade and went on to say that it is important to continue negotiating." Since then, according to Heyman, Spinosa has been talking not only to Ridge but also to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Ridge's astounding and sinister intervention comes in the midst of tense negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association representing shipowners and stevedores operating on the West Coast and the ILWU. The prime issue is technology, where the employers seek change in work rules. Today, Thursday, Longshore workers are staging a rally in Oakland.

"The big thing," Heyman says, "is the hiring hall. The PMA wants to computerize the hall. Longshore workers died in the 1934 strike for the hiring hall. It dictates who controls distribution of jobs, who controls the waterfront. We eliminated corruption and favoritism with establishment of union hiring hall. They want to put computer cards. When you go to hiring hall you schmooze, see what is going on. Employers don't want that."

The trans-Pacific trade has grown to become one of the largest in the world. The West Coast now has four of the top six U. S. container ports. Wages for full-time longshoremen range from $105,278 for general longshoremen to $125,058 for marine clerks to $167,122 for foremen. Longshoremen have always made it a rule in negotiations not to make any concession without an equivalent concession from the employers. Heyman mentions the push by European unions for shorter work weeks as one model for demands here.

The PMA is also demanding that the workers begin paying for part of their health insurance coverage, a demand that would slice into rights won by the Longshoremen in the 1960s. "It's not fair that all these foreign-owned shipping lines want American workers to pay more for health coverage," said Ramon Ponce de Leon Jr, head of the ILWU's local for the Los Angeles-Long Beach port.

This year's contract disputes are particularly fraught. The rapid gains in trade volume are over for the moment, as both the U. S. and Asian economies struggle to emerge from recession.

Shipping revenues are down. Since Sept.11, security has replaced commerce as the transportation industry's main priority. Residents of port communities beef about the long lines of trucks at container terminals that cause gridlock on their roads and pollute the air. With the huge new container ships now being built, such problems will get worse.

According to the Journal of Commerce, "Over the past year, PMA President Joseph Miniace has publicly called for the introduction of contemporary technology to increase the efficiency of cargo-handling activities at West Coast ports. ILWU President James Spinosa responded that the union would never accept the type of robotics he personally witnessed at the Port of Rotterdam."

Ridge's call comes in the context of urgent PMA lobbying in Washington. Again according to the Journal of Commerce, "Management forces, pointing out that shipments through West Coast ports account for 70 per cent of the nation's gross domestic product, have been trying to line up support in Washington, D. C. PMA President Joseph Miniace has been a frequent visitor to the nation's capital, meeting with members of Congress and administration officials. Importers and exporters have also joined the fray. They note that what happens on the West Coast will affect companies across the country. They're trying to keep the pressure on the PMA to stand firm in the bargaining."

There are other sinister signs that "homeland security" is being used as a club to bash labor. The right wing is working fiercely to make the prospective new umbrella Homeland Security Agency non-union, again citing the paramountcy of national security. Once again this takes us back to the darkest days of domestic repression at the dawn of the Cold War.