Militant ILWU Group Opposes Ratification of New Contract

 In contract negotiations, ILWU, PMA, shippers

The news of a tentative contract agreement being reached by the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) was music to shippers’ ears.

Nine long months of contract negotiations turned contentious between the PMA and ILWU while shippers could only watch West Coast port congestion keep their imports and exports from reaching destination.

When the tentative contract agreement between the PMA and ILWU was announced, everyone assumed it would be ratified and go into effect. But there is a militant group from the ILWU that says not so fast!

The Transport Workers Solidarity Committee opposes the tentative agreement and is holding a rally on March 31st against ratifying the new contract.

March 31st is the Tuesday of the week that ILWU delegates will meet in San Francisco to evaluate the tentative contract agreement and decide if they will recommend approval of the contract.

The Transport Workers Solidarity Committee will hold their rally outside of the international headquarters of the ILWU on Franklin Street in San Francisco with the goal of convincing the delegates not to recommend approval.

ILWU members and delegates are invited to the rally.

If the ILWU delegates still recommend approving the new contract, expect the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee to work to sway the rank and file of the union to vote against the contract and force the ILWU and PMA back to the negotiation table.

After the tentative agreement was reached, I checked the pulse of ILWU’s satisfaction with the new contract by asking Local 54 Longshoreman, LRC, and PAC Chairman David Griffen if his fellow longshoremen seemed happy with the contract.

The longshoremen “seem very happy,” he replied.

ILWU Happy with Tentative Contract resized 600

From all the details that have been released about the new contract that the PMA and ILWU have tentatively agreed upon, it is hard to imagine how union members couldn’t be happy with it.

Bill Mongelluzzo shared the following contract details in a Journal of Commerce (JOC) article about the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee’s rally and opposition to the new contract:

The tentative five-year contract maintains full employer-paid medical benefits. Longshoremen will retire with a pension that tops out at $88,800 a year. Hourly wage increases are more generous than in other contracts dating back to the 1980s. According to the PMA, full-time longshoremen last year earned on average $147,000. The hourly wage in the last year of the contract will increase to $42.18, but many longshoremen work in jobs that pay skill or overtime differentials that increase the base wage by 15 to 30 percent.

Jurisdiction was a sticking point in the negotiations that went on for nine months and led to massive delays up and down the coast. The tentative contract grants jurisdiction to the ILWU to inspect and repair most chassis before they leave the marine terminals, even though PMA-member shipping lines no longer own the chassis.

The tentative contract will also establish a three-member panel in each of the port regions to adjudicate the health and safety and work-rule disagreements that arise frequently on the waterfront. Instead of having just one local arbitrator in Seattle-Tacoma, Portland, Oakland and Los Angeles-Long Beach as is now the case, each panel will include a member nominated by the ILWU, one by the PMA and a third who is a member of either the Federal Mediation and Conciliation service or the American Arbitration Association.

The Transport Workers Solidarity Committee apparently sees the new contract as moving the union toward “business unionism” and away from “militant unionism”. Militant unionism obviously being their preferred type.

“Left unchecked, it will gut ILWU’s coastwide power and bury the last militant union in the U.S.,” the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee says about the contract on their webpage promoting the March 31st rally.

Apparently this militant group of ILWU members and retirees are at odds with ILWU leadership. They also say on the page mentioned aboved:

The ILWU has a proud history of class struggle and the fight for democratic principles codified in the Ten Guiding Principles of the ILWU. Today ILWU officials flaunt these union principles, using top down control to direct longshore workers to cross picket lines and keep contract negotiations secret while the PMA gives the contract to the maritime employers’ Journal Of Commerce.

In Bill Mongelluzzo’s JOC article, he says the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee is playing “loose with certain facts” in that the JOC did receive a copy of the contract, but not from the PMA or any of its members.

To get a better feeling of what the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee is all about, check out what they say they stand for on their purpose page:

We firmly believe and fight for the following:

      • 1. The workers must control their own struggles and our solidarity supports those struggles and never substitutes for workers themselves or their organizations.
      • 2. We recognize that the working class and the employing class have nothing in common. Therefore:
        • A. We oppose the “team concept” of labor collaboration with management and deference to the anti-labor laws which reinforce capitalist domination. Therefore we oppose the business unionist bureaucracy which carries out these policies.
        • B. We stand for the political independence of the working class from the capitalist parties and the capitalist state, its agencies, its courts and its police. We oppose so-called “free trade agreements” based on neo-liberal economic policies which deregulate and privatize industries and services while busting unions.
      • 3. We stand for action against racism, sexism and any other bias in all of their destructive and insidious forms which divide workers in the struggle against capital.
      • 4. We seek to work with union members and unorganized workers, especially immigrant workers, to help build militant unions through working class solidarity here and internationally.

With statements like “the working class and the employing class have nothing in common” and “We oppose the ‘team concept’ of labor collaboration with management”, it would be no surprise if this group vehemently opposes any agreement between the union and employers.

Working class and employing class have nothing in common? Not humanity? Not basic rights? In this particular case, not a common dependence on shippers, who are the consumers that create the need for both managers and workers at the dock to move cargo?

Maybe before they claim to stand against racism, sexism, and any other bias, the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee should recognize their own bias against management.

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