Wednesday, September 4, 2013

ILWU Severs Ties with AFL-CIO

International Longshore & Warehouse Union President Robert McEllrath has sent a letter to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka informing him that after a 25-year partnership, the ILWU is disaffiliating itself from the larger union.

“It is with regret but resolve that we have come to the point where the International Longshore and Warehouse Union must cut formal ties with the AFL-CIO,” McEllrath wrote in the letter, which was sent Aug. 29, on the eve of Labor Day Weekend. “The ILWU has been independent and unaffiliated for most of its history. Today, the ILWU returns to that tradition.”

Among the primary reasons McEllrath cited for the split were picket line crossings by AFL-CIO affiliates during an action against the Pacific Northwest grain terminals.

“A 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, Washington, and then walked through ILWU picket lines for six months until we were able to secure this critical longshore jurisdiction,” McEllrath wrote.

McEllrath’s laundry list of complaints also included incidents that have taken place in Southern and Northern California.

“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,” McEllrath wrote, implying the purpose of the fines was preventing the ILWU from filling new waterfront jobs that replace traditional longshore work due to new technologies.

“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,” the letter maintains, citing how some of the Building Trades affiliates have displaced ILWU workers in the loading of barges at Terminal 46 in Seattle.

“These multi-state attacks against the ILWU are being coordinated in large part by a law firm with close ties to the Federation,” McEllrath wrote. “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 ten years. The survival of the ILWU and the job security of our members depend on our having these remaining jobs. We will not let other affiliates jeopardize our survival and block our future as the primary waterfront workforce.”