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Short ILWU Analysis- whats at stake

by Paul H. Rosenberg Monday, Sep. 30, 2002 at 3:10 PM
(from LA-IMC listserve)

The ILWU may be "only" 10,500 strong, but it's arguably one of the strongest and most militant unions in the US. It's never a good idea to get hysterical, but this is definitely a serious threat.

The ILWU may be "only" 10,500 strong, but it's arguably one of the strongest and
most militant unions in the US. It's never a good idea to get hysterical, but
this
is definitely a serious threat. I've been writing about this conflict for most
of
the summer in Random Lengths, so this doesn't come out of the blue for me.
Here's a
bit of background.

First off, the issue is NOT technology, it IS outsourcing. The 1960
Modernization
and Mechanization (M&M) Agreement set up the basic framework which has been in
place
ever since. The M&M Agreement says that the union will not oppose
modernization,
and the employeers will not use modernization to get rid of union jobs--all new
and
remaining jobs will be union jobs. This agreement has NOT been honored by some
members of the PMA in recent years--most notably Stevedore Services of America
(SSA), which owns a number of other companies, such as Matson. SSA has
outsourced
jobs to Utah, for example.

The head of the PMA, the employeer's association, was basically hired to break
the
union--either literally or figuratively--and this is his last negotiation before
HIS
contract is up. SSA was instrumental in his hiring. At the very least, he was
supposed to break their spirit and make them accept managements terms, which
would
lead to the long-term decline of the union, at most was the hope of breaking the
union completely. The Bush Adminstration has openly speculated about breaking
up
the jurisdiction units, so that each port would negotiate separately. This
would
effectively destroy the union's bargaining power.

Most of August was taken up by the union rallying political support to tell the
Bush
Administration to keep out of negotiations. The ultimate purpose of the lockout
is
to paint it as a strike, give the Bush Administration an excuse to invoke
Taft-Hartley, and then go even further--once again casting labor rights as an
impediment to the "war on terror," just as he's doing with the Department of
Homeland Security. Active support can definitely make a difference now,
demonstrating that such an attempt to cast labor rights as dangerous will not
succede.


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