Just before Labor Day, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) cut formal ties with the AFL-CIO, expressing concern about jurisdictional battles with other unions as it prepares to negotiate a new contract next year.
ILWU President Robert McEllrath announced the decision in a letter dated last Thursday to Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO president
. ILWU represents longshoreman on the West Coast of the United States and Canada.
"We see this situation only getting worse as the ILWU is about to start
West Coast longshore negotiations and face the challenge of the ports
soon being run by robotics and computer-operated machinery over the next
five to 10 years," McEllrath wrote.
"The survival of the ILWU and the job security of our
members depend on our having these remaining jobs, which will mostly
involve the servicing and maintenance of the robotics and other
machinery. These are jobs that directly replace longshoremen, jobs that
ILWU employers control and jobs that fall under jurisdictional
provisions of our contract. We will not let other affiliates jeopardize
our survival and block our future as the primary waterfront workforce," he added.
McEllrath also expressed frustration "with the federation’s
moderate, overly compromising policy positions on such important matters
as immigration, labor law reform, health care reform, and international
He said ILWU has "seen a growing surge of attacks" from various unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO.
particularly outrageous raid occurred in 2011, when one affiliate
slipped in to longshore jobs at the new EGT grain facility in the Port
of Longview, Wash., and then walked through ILWU picket lines for
six months until we were able to secure this critical longshore
jurisdiction. Your office added insult to injury by issuing a directive
to the Oregon State Federation to rescind its support of the ILWU fight
at EGT, which threatened to be the first marine terminal on the West
Coast to go non-ILWU," McEllrath told the AFL-CIO president in his letter.
He said attacks by AFL-CIO affiliates "have only increased. One
affiliate has filed a string of ULP (unfair labor practice) charges as well as an Article XX charge that not only interfere with ILWU contractual rights at specific
ports; the ULP charges also are attempting to dismantle core
jurisdictional provisions in our Longshore Contract for the entire West
Coast." (Article XX of the AFL-CIO constitution
says "Each affiliate shall respect the established collective bargaining relationship of every other affiliate. No affiliate shall organize or attempt to represent employees as to whom an established collective bargaining relationship exists with any other affiliate.")
"In Los Angeles and Oakland, another affiliate is imposing
internal union fines against dual union members for the 'crime' of
taking a job as a longshoreman — the stated purpose of the fines being
to prevent the ILWU from filling new waterfront jobs that replace
traditional longshore work due to new technologies," McEllrath said.
"In Oakland and Tacoma, another affiliate is trying to use a recent NLRB
ruling against one of our employers to take over ILWU jobs with some of
our other employers. Throughout the Pacific Northwest, we are daily
seeing still other affiliates blatantly cross the picket lines of ILWU
members who have been locked out for months by the regional grain
industry. And just this week, some of the Building Trades affiliates
have displaced ILWU workers in the loading of barges at Terminal 46 in
Seattle where longshoremen have done this work for generations. They
also had the gall to file several ULP charges against us for picketing
at our own marine terminal. These multi-state attacks against the ILWU
are being coordinated in large part by a law firm with close ties to the
federation," he said. - Chris Dupin