FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Class War on the Waterfront: Longshore Workers Under Attack

by

Photo by ROBERT HUFFSTUTTER | CC BY 2.0

The ink wasn’t even dry on the West Coast longshore contract when the head of the employers’ group, the Pacific Maritime Association, proposed an additional 3-year extension to the president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), making it an eight-year contract. While the number of registered longshore jobs, 14,000, is the about same as in 1952, revenue tonnage has increased 14 times to a record-breaking 350 million revenue tons.

Under the current contract employers have already eliminated hundreds of longshore jobs through automation on marine terminals like the fully-automated Long Beach Container Terminal and semi-automated TraPac in the port of Los Angeles. “By the end of an extended contract in 2022, several thousand longshore jobs will be eliminated on an annual basis due to automation” warned Ed Ferris, president of ILWU Local 10 of San Francisco. With driverless trucks and crane operators in control towers running three cranes simultaneously, the chances of serious and deadly accidents are enormous.

Now maritime employers are pulling out all stops to push through this job-killing contract extension, using both Democratic and Republican politicians, high-powered PR firms and even some union officials.

A Chronicle op-ed appeared this week by Democrat Mickey Kantor, former Secretary of Commerce who was responsible for creating the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Association which lost millions of jobs and Norman Mineta, another Democrat former Secretary of Commerce, from the public relations firm Hill and Knowlton. The first public relations firm was hired by Rockefeller to clean up his public image after nearly 100 people, men, women and children were killed in a 1914 Colorado miners strike known as the Ludlow Massacre and employers continue to use PR firms today.

The authors of this week’s SF Chronicle pro-company PR piece talk of preserving “labor peace” and refer to West Coast port shutdowns over the last 15 years. Yes, there is a class war on the waterfront, but it’s being waged by the employers. Those port closures were caused by employer lockouts in 2002, 2013 and 2014 during longshore contract negotiations.  The 2002 lockout was ended after Democrat Diane Feinstein called on President Bush to invoke the anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act directed not against the maritime employers’ lockout but the longshore union. The only time the ILWU shutdown Pacific Coast ports in that period was May Day 2008 to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the first-ever labor strike in the United States against a war.

The two Democrats cite distorted figures for wages and pensions that only reflect the highest skill level after a lifetime of work in one of the most dangerous industries. And then they threaten that “if the contract proposal is rejected” it could lead Republicans and Democrats alike to impose anti-strike legislation on the waterfront. The ILWU backed Bernie Sanders in the last election and then Hillary Clinton. Yet no matter who leads it, the Democratic Party represents the employer class, Wall Street on the waterfront. Clearly what’s needed now is a workers party to fight for a workers government that would expropriate the maritime industry, in ports and at sea, while establishing workers control.

The so-called “friends of labor” Democrats have been enlisted by PMA because earlier this year at the Longshore Caucus, a union meeting representing dockworkers on all West Coast ports, the San Francisco longshore delegates voted unanimously to oppose a contract extension. Last week they held a conference at their union hall on automation and the proposed contract extension. One proposal was to make automation benefit dockworkers by reducing the workweek to 30 hours while maintaining 40 hours pay, creating another work shift.

There are tens of millions of unemployed in this country. The labor movement should launch a new campaign for a shorter workweek at no loss in pay as part of a struggle for full employment to benefit all, not Trump and his Wall Street bankster cronies. In resisting the push for this contract extension to automate jobs out of existence, ILWU waterfront workers can stand up for all workers.

More articles by:

Jack Heyman is a retired Oakland longshoreman who edits the Maritime Worker Monitor and chairs the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee

CounterPunch Magazine


bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
August 18, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Why Trump Could Be Gone Before 2020
John Steppling
America Asleep
Jeffrey St. Clair
To See or to Nazi: Trump’s Moral Blindspot is America’s
Vincent Emanuele
The Fetishization of Violence: Reflections on Charlottesville, WWII and Activism
Peter A. Coclanis
Why Trump Isn’t a Populist
Rob Urie
Imperial Death Spiral
Sam Husseini
How “Both Sides” Forge U.S. Supremacy: the Nationalistic Hypocrisies of “Violence” and “Free Speech”
David Rosen
Permanent War, Permanent Failure
Patrick Cockburn
Endtimes in Mosul
Dave Lindorff
Discovering Racism and Then Discovering It Anew
Richard Hardigan
Israel Continues Its Attack on Palestinian Freedom of Expression
Alexander Cockburn
Two Sides to Every Issue: the Tedium Twins Debate the Crucifixion, Slavery and Cannibalism
Pete Dolack
Life Under Capitalism: Early Deaths a ‘Silver Lining’ for Corporations
John Laforge
Peace Camp and War Games at Harvest Time
Robert Fantina
Trump, Congress and Integrity
Alfredo Lopez
Justice Department’s Dreamhost Subpoena Ramps Up the Police State
CJ Hopkins
A De-Putin-Nazification of America Update
Steve Brown
Giving Trump Credit When He’s Right
David Swanson
Creative Anti-Nazism
Peter Certo
White Supremacy Carries More Than a Tiki Torch
Jill Richardson
It’s Not About ‘White Culture’
Joseph Natoli
Easy Access to the Abyss
Mark Weisbrot
Strangling Puerto Rico in Order to Save It
Robert Koehler
Why Does North Korea Hate Us?
Nyla Ali Khan
The Woman Question in the Subcontinent
Alvaro Huerta
A Chicana/o Manifesto on Community Organizing: Reflections of a Scholar-Activist
Binoy Kampmark
Bullying Venezuela: Trump’s Unvarnished Threat
Patrick Bond
Falling BRICS Endanger Their Citizens’ Health, Starting With South Africa’s Jacob Zuma
Jamarl L. Thomas
Free Speech is Free Speech, Precisely for the Speech You Don’t Like
Kary Love
The Fourth Branch
Graham Peebles
Climate Change Demands an End to Excess and Greed
Louisa Willcox
Ted and Joan Major: Last of a Generation of Conservation Giants in Jackson Hole
Dylan Moore
Trump’s Immigration Plan Will Harm Americans and the Economy
Olivia Alperstein
Racists Look Emboldened. They’re Actually Terrified.
José-Antonio Orosco
What Did Dr. King Mean by Love?
Rob Okun
The Poison of White Supremacist Masculinity
Thomas Knapp
Charlottesville Haters: Test Case for the Internet as Public Square
Cesar Chelala
What Trump Can Learn From Ants
Ryan Summers
Breitbart, the Alt-Right and Charlottesville
Louis Proyect
Digital Dystopias
Charles R. Larson
Review: Lawrence P. Jackson’s “Chester B. Himes”
David Yearsley
“Oklahoma!”: As American as Apple Pie and Broken Treaties
August 17, 2017
Ajamu Baraka
The Story of Charlottesville Was Written in Blood in the Ukraine
Tim Messer Messer-Kruse
Right But Wrong: Trump’s Defense of Confederate Symbols and Its Threat to Color-Blind Liberalism
George Barbarie
Barbarian Left
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail