There have been 5 deaths of longshore workers this year on the docks, demonstrating the hazardous working conditions. The World Socialist Website provides one perspective on what is to be done.
"US shippers lock out dockworkers on West Coast"
by Andrea Cappannari and Rafael Azul, 9/30/02 at:
Pertinent paragraphs (it is all worth reading carefully):
"Since 1961, it [the ILWU] has signed agreements that have led to the systematic destruction of jobs. By 1983, membership was down to 6,500 from 16,000 in 1965. The current level of employment—10,500—is only the result of the latest expansion of Pacific Rim trade. Although the number of jobs on the docks has increased, the union has presided over a dramatic decline in safety conditions. This year alone, five longshoremen have died as a result of accidents."
"The ILWU represents 10,500 dockworkers at 29 major Pacific ports. The West Coast docks have been expanding at an average rate of 5 percent a year. The Los Angeles port alone is the biggest in the US by volume as well as one of the world’s largest. Longshore workers are the gatekeepers for 0 billion in finished and intermediate goods that move through the ports every year."
"The renewed shutdown of all ports on the West Coast of the United States by the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) signifies an increasingly aggressive stance on the part of the shipping companies in their ongoing dispute with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) over the terms of a new contract. After bringing dockworkers back on the job for one day after a 36-hour lockout, the shippers refused to call anyone back to work Monday morning."
"This latest development demonstrates that the talks now under way between the two parties have no other purpose than the negotiation of surrender on the part of the union—a surrender that the ILWU bureaucracy is currently preparing."
"The union bureaucracy has already agreed to accept the loss of 1,000 longshore jobs as a result of the implementation of these technologies. Prior to the lockout, the union continued to insist that all of the remaining ILWU positions be guaranteed and that any jobs created as a result of the new technology fall under union jurisdiction. However, the ILWU’s toothless response to the PMA’s most recent aggression signifies that the trade union leadership is contemplating further concessions."
"The use of nonunion labor by the shipping companies is already a significant phenomenon, as some corporations in the PMA have set up container storage facilities off the docks and under the control of subsidiary companies not subject to ILWU contracts."
"The current situation facing the rank and file of the ILWU is an expression of the fact that these longshoremen are at the center of worldwide transformations in labor relations that have been developing for some time and are necessary to sustain a globalized economy under capitalism. Today’s international markets and production networks depend on the expansion of reliable and inexpensive transportation systems. In order to achieve this, railroad, shipping and trucking companies all over the world have engaged in two decades of union-busting, privatizations, speedup and the use of nonunion labor. This crusade began in the US with the smashing of the air traffic controllers union (PATCO) in 1981 under the Reagan administration."
"A recent declaration from the union’s negotiating committee urges longshore workers to expedite military cargo through the ports. Thus, while preaching class solidarity, the ILWU bureaucracy is actively supporting the predatory aims of the US government abroad, claiming that the longshoremen are true patriots because they will help transport arms and munitions to be used against the working people in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere."
"Moreover, the rapid growth of US militarism is intimately connected to a long developing and now accelerating attack on the living standards and democratic rights of the working class in the United States. With the economic position of the ruling elite in America threatened by a global economic decline and the growth of competition from abroad, Washington is seeking to dig itself out of this situation by establishing geopolitical control over the world’s most important economic resource—oil—through the extension of its military power."
"In order for the dockworkers to effectively fight the PMA and the attacks of the Bush administration a new leadership and a new strategy are needed. Longshore workers must mobilize and launch a strike that makes a direct appeal to rank-and-file dockers throughout the US and in countries around the globe as well as to workers in all related industries, over and above the heads of the union bureaucracies."
"Practical measures are urgently required. It is necessary for dockers to take control of the fight out of the hands of the ILWU bureaucracy, which has demonstrated its unwillingness to wage a struggle. Mass meetings must be called in every port for the purpose of electing rank-and-file committees to organize and coordinate a strike to shut down all West Coast docks. Appeals to boycott the unloading of scab ships must be issued to dockworkers on the East and Gulf coasts of the United States, to Canadian and Mexican dockworkers and to dockworkers across the Pacific Rim."