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Stop Union Busting on the Waterfront!

by Ben Fletcher Thursday, Dec. 07, 2006 at 6:56 AM

In a show of solidarity ILWU Local 10 voted for a port-wide shutdown in support of the IBU & MMP workers. This is call for all union members and their allies to join us on the picket line Pier 31/33, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, December 9, 2006 at 10 AM.

For more information, please visit alcatrazunion.com.

Stop Union Busting on the Waterfront

For the past two months Bay Area maritime union members have been picketing daily in a struggle to maintain union wages and working conditions.

Terry MacRae's Alcatraz Cruises (a subsidiary of Hornblower) refuses to hire IBU and MM&P members who have worked on the Alcatraz ferry since 1973.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union was born out of the 1934 San Francisco Maritime and General Strike.

Since then, the ILWU has maintained good wages and working conditions on the entire Bay Area waterfront. The current assault by Hornblower is a direct attack at the heart of ILWU jurisdiction and demands a powerful response!

ILWU Local 10 voted to hold a port-wide stop-work meeting and port shutdown in solidarity with the IBU & MMP workers.

This is call for all union members and their allies to join us for the march at 9:15 AM and on the picket line at 10 AM on December 9.

An Injury to One is an Injury to All!

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area:

  • 9:15 AM, September 9, 2006 - March
  • 10:00 AM, September 9. 2006 - Mass Picket

If you live outsisde of the San Francisco Bay Area - visit this page.


Editorial, by Jack Heyman, ILWU Local 10 - The challenge to labor

San Francisco has been a solidly union town since the historic 1934 maritime strike of sailors and longshoremen which turned into a citywide General Strike after two strikers were killed by police. The strikers' slogan then was, "An injury to one is an injury to all." Now, every July 5, "Bloody Thursday," West Coast ports close from the Canadian to the Mexican border to commemorate the six union members killed during the militant strike that forged the organized labor movement.

But is San Francisco still a union town?

For the first time since that 1934 strike, a nonunion maritime company has begun operating on the Embarcadero. Hornblower Cruises and Events, owned by Terry McRae, was awarded a 10-year contract by the National Park Service (NPS) last year to provide ferry service to Alcatraz Island. Some 50 workers, represented by the Inlandboatmen's Union (IBU) and the Masters, Mates and Pilots Union (MMP), with decent working conditions, wages and family health insurance, lost their jobs. They've been picketing, along with their supporters, at Pier 33 on the Embarcadero for the past two months, as McRae refuses to negotiate.

In response, the San Francisco longshore union voted to shut down all Bay Area ports and hold a stop-work meeting and mass picket in solidarity with its sister IBU local, which is affiliated to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). In 2003, the Los Angeles longshore union took similar action, shutting down the largest port in the United States and marching in solidarity with striking grocery-store workers. In 2000, when the jobs of Charleston, S.C., longshore workers had been taken over by a nonunion stevedore operator, they, much as the Alcatraz ferry workers, protested by picketing. They were attacked by riot police with many injured and five arrested. The ILWU went to their defense. Known as the Charleston 5 campaign, it became a cause celebre of the American labor movement and is one of the few shining examples of labor's power in recent years.

Much has changed since the days when a freighter's cargo was "hand-jived" by gangs of longshoremen or when ferries would carry passengers from Oakland to San Francisco. Containerization and bridges have changed the face of the waterfront.

One of the most significant measures of change, perhaps, is the integration of women into the workforce. Nowadays, the "first lady" in the Port of Oakland is a black mother who operates a container crane. And the regional director of the IBU is Marina Secchitano, who in the fight to defend her union and her members' jobs, refuses to back down in the face of corporate intimidation. Twice arrested by police, Secchitano is determined to achieve justice for her union members, who have been diligently working the Alcatraz Ferry since it began operations in 1973 and now find themselves replaced, like the Charleston longshoremen.

While Hornblower maintains a callous disregard for the lives of the workers who made the Alcatraz run into the success that it has become, the company portrays itself as environmentally conscious. U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilkins has ruled that the Service Contract Act, which requires a successor of a federal contract to pay the same level of wages and benefits as the previous employer, applies to Hornblower. But who today believes that justice can be achieved through government agencies and courts? Certainly not when judges rule that corporations can rip up with impunity labor contracts that provide for workers' pensions, health benefits and wages, as happened to workers at Bethlehem Steel and United Airlines. Some judges have barred workers from striking in response.

In this atmosphere of one-sided class war, if unions are to survive as independent organizations that represent the democratic will of workers, then they will have to exercise their power -- even if that means defying unjust laws. That's what the civil rights movement did in the '60s and the labor movement did before that in the '30s.

If nonunion companies, such as Hornblower can operate with federal blessing, then others will follow and the days of unions on the San Francisco waterfront are numbered.

Is an injury to one still an injury to all? If so, will unions take the necessary action? That is the challenge of organized labor today.

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