imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Subscribe Calendar Publish RSS
Tell the NSA: StopWatching.US

Features
latest news
best of news
syndication
commentary


KILLRADIO

VozMob

CopWatch LA

ABCF LA

A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List

LAAMN List





IMC Network: www.indymedia.org africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech
printable version - js reader version - email this article - view hidden posts - tags and related articles
link:

Longshore Struggle Brews on Both Coasts, Part 2

by Mark Vorpahl Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013 at 10:35 PM
portland@workerscompass.org

In the Northwest, at the terminals on the Columbia River, Puget Sound, and Portland, Oregon, the membership of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) are on the defensive against the Northwest Grain Handlers Association (NWGHA). The conflict involves nearly 3,000 workers at terminals that handle a quarter of the nation’s grain exports.

The NWGHA is demanding a long list of concessions that are in violation of the Pacific Maritime Association’s agreement that is supposed to cover West Coast Longshore workers. These include extending shifts to 12 hours without overtime pay and hiring fewer union members to unload ships.

Perhaps worse, over the course of the five-year contract, employers will be free to hire scabs and toss the contract if there are three job actions or if fines of $1,500 per hour are not paid within 15 days for a work stoppage. It was such collective direct action by Longshore workers that created the union. The NWGHA wants no more of it.

How can the NWGHA get away with such proposals? Unfortunately, precedent was recently established for these concessions at the port in Longview, Washington.

This had been the site of a long, bitter fight with the grain exporting multinationals grouped within the Export Grain Terminal (EGT) who claimed they were under no obligation to run the new terminal with ILWU members. For decades the ILWU has worked the West Coast docks. The EGT was attempting to break the ILWU’s strength.

ILWU Local 21 put up an inspiring militant fight that attracted wide support from the Longview community and other unions and activist groups up and down the coast, including large numbers from the Occupy movement. Busloads of supporters were ready to demonstrate their solidarity and confront a Coast Guard escorted scab ship.

However, the ILWU leadership felt forced to distance themselves from these efforts out of fear of anti-labor laws that could come down heavily on the union in the event of such a confrontation. They were under tremendous pressure to come to a tentative agreement before the possibility of such an event, while the EGT was determined to strike a blow against the union.

Eventually, union recognition at the Longview port was won before the scab ship arrived. However, the contract broke from the Pacific Maritime Association agreement and some members have characterized it as the worst ever. Now the grain companies are trying to enforce the Longview concessions at other ports as well.

Unfair Stand Off

In the current battle a strike and an employer lock-out have been averted for now. Unfortunately, the Longshore workers are on the job under the NWGHA’s “last, best, and final offer” that 94 percent of the union’s membership voted down.

The employers have not responded to the ILWU’s offers to continue to negotiate. At this point, the union leadership’s strategy hinges on getting a favorable ruling from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). They will file unfair labor practice charges accusing the terminal owners of bargaining in bad faith and forcing new terms on them before contract talks reached an impasse.

There are great dangers with relying on this approach. Even with the most well prepared case, trying to resolve such Labor conflicts through the NLRB is always a crapshoot. For instance, the ILWU has recently been stung by a number of NLRB decisions that went against them. In addition, the wheels at the NLRB turn notoriously slowly, which is both difficult to bear and dangerous for workers forced to labor under a sub-standard contract.

Labor law and its government bureaucracy were set up to contain workers’ struggles ultimately for the benefit of big business owners. While it is necessary for unionists to utilize it since this legal code does provide some limits on corporate abuse, they cannot depend on it. When this setup prevents workers from fighting to win, it is necessary to defy it however possible.

For instance, the NWGHA is currently paying for scabs to stand by and be prepared to take over operations permanently in the event of a strike. Under U.S. labor law this is legal. However, if mass pickets are organized to prevent the scabs from crossing the picket lines and getting to the work sites, the legal right of the employers to use scabs is moot. The courts will always try to limit the number of pickets with injunctions so that scabs can easily enter the work place.

But, such court injunctions are not worth the paper they are printed on if there is enough worker/community support to turn out and build picket lines that can’t be crossed.

At the same time, it has been announced that there is a split in the NWGHA. Temco, a joint venture between agribusiness giants Cargill Inc. and CHS Inc., is continuing to employ Tacoma Longshore workers on terms of their last contract rather impose the voted down concessionary “last, best, and final offer.” Separate negotiations appear ready to get under way. If it were not for the ILWU’s ability to shut down the ports and the wide respect they have among working people in the Northwest, this would not have happened.

Challenging Anti-Worker Laws

An impending threat to a favorable resolution for the Longshore workers is the possibility of President Obama imposing a back-to-work order under the old contract in the case of a work stoppage. Such a measure would undercut the bargaining leverage of the union since the company’s profits would continue to roll in, if the workers chose to obey it.

President Bush issued such an order in 2002 when the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) locked out ILWU Local 10 in San Francisco in a move that was intended to provoke federal interference. By bringing the membership back to work under these conditions, the PMA was free to use any anti-labor law in the books in an attempt to intimidate the union.

Such federal interference in labor disputes is allowed under the 1948 Taft-Harley Act, coined the “Slave Labor Act” by unionists at the time. This act outlawed many of the tactics the Congress of Industrial Organizations (a federation of industrial unions distinct from craft unions) successfully employed in the 1930s, such as solidarity or political strikes, secondary boycotts (industrial action by a union against a company on the grounds that it does business with another company engaged in a labor dispute), mass picketing and so on.

It also allowed states to pass “right to work laws” that outlawed closed union shops where all workers must join the union in order to maintain employment.

Taft-Hartley is only one of the most pernicious laws in a legal web meant to cripple workers’ collective efforts to improve their lives so that corporations can suck more profits out of them. The strike victory of the ILWU in LA and Long Beach managed to avoid these traps and shut down the docks. The ILA on the East Coast is negotiating with the threat of Taft-Hartley dangling over their heads. The Northwest ILWU Locals are being hit repeatedly with anti-labor laws that are tightly binding their ability to fight for a fair deal.

These laws must be defied when they prevent Labor from winning. However, the ability to do so cannot be done consistently by the ILA and the ILWU alone. These unions will have to reach out to other unions as well as to the community for support, explaining that the fate of their struggle will impact all working people. When a union negotiates a bad contract, other employers point to it as a way to convince their own workers to expect less. Conversely, when workers negotiate a good contract, other workers are inspired by their success and try to emulate it.

By reaching out to all working people, the Longshore unions can begin to create a movement that, if sufficiently massive, will have the power to defy court injunctions without suffering any penalties. Power will be in their hands.

This is Part 2 of a two-part series co-published with Occupy.com. http://workerscompass.org/?p=7476 for Part 1 of the series.
Report this post as:
Share on: Twitter, Facebook, Google+

add your comments


Local News

Families Protest Abusive Foreclosure Practices of Wells Fargo Bank A26 10:37AM

How is CCSA's Ref Rodriguez hiding his billionaire and ideologue contributors? A21 12:08PM

What drives charter profiteer Ref Rodriguez? A21 12:04PM

Los Angeles Artist Threatens 40 Million Dollar Law Suit for Public Storage Illegal Auction A20 4:08PM

RAC-LA Community Center Grand Opening A20 1:44PM

KPFK and Pacifica- woes unrelenting... A19 4:20PM

RAC-LA Community Center Badly Needs Your Support A14 10:09PM

Meet Green elected school board members, Sunday, March 29 in LA - 4pm M26 2:36AM

Californians Shame Regulators For Teaching Big Oil How To Skirt Law and Pollute Our Water M25 5:28PM

Next "Star Wars" to score in Los Angeles for First Time in Franchise History M25 10:43AM

Los Angeles Stands Up for Women's Rights M10 9:25PM

American Flag Banned from UC Irvine M06 10:38PM

Conversations with 3 HOLES AND A SMOKING GUN M06 5:27PM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

Paléontologie contemporaine M06 2:47AM

LA Progressive: Ref Rodriguez—What the PUC Is Going on Here? M05 11:26PM

Press Freedom Banned in Ukraine M05 12:28PM

L.A. Stands in Solidarity with Australian Aborigines M05 11:12AM

Breaking the Silence: A Middleman For Anonymous Sources M05 7:36AM

Palestinians contract with public relations Firm M05 7:32AM

Israeli Soldiers Break the Silence on Gaza War M05 3:41AM

US-Saudi Illegal Blockade Compounds Naked Aggression Against Yemen M05 2:38AM

Mondoweiss is a hate site M04 8:06PM

Truth About the USA M04 7:06PM

VIDEO: Cholita the abused ex-circus bear takes first steps to freedom! M04 3:30PM

Know The Brand Names of Water Thief Nestle's M04 2:45PM

KPFK'S rep to Pacific Bd Whitleblower -being kicked out ...plse sign petiton here M04 2:38PM

NEW BOOKS BY FILIPINO SCHOLAR E. SAN JUAN Jr. M04 1:17PM

US-Dominated NATO Readying for War on Russia? M04 11:56AM

On the End of Capitalism M04 8:33AM

US Wars Kill Mostly Civilians M04 4:00AM

Racist Israeli Policies Target Arabs and Ethiopian Jews M04 3:42AM

Saudis Using US-Supplied Banned Terror Weapons Against Yemeni Civilians M03 9:42AM

Jimmy Carter Calls Gaza Conditions "Intolerable" M03 5:35AM

Ukraine: A US-Supported Fascist Cancer in Europe's Heartland M03 4:54AM

Hommage à feu Maurice Laisant M03 12:58AM

Announcement M02 8:22PM

Gross injustices before our eyes: USA police state M02 12:00PM

Anniversary of Last May's Odessa Massacre M02 11:12AM

Proposed US Strategy for Dominating China M02 7:46AM

Kiev's Poroshenko Vows Continued War M02 5:47AM

Washington Blocks Security Council Action on Vital Yemeni Humanitarian Needs M02 4:30AM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2003 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy