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Vol. 79/No. 6      February 23, 2015

On the Picket Line

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This column is dedicated to spreading the truth about the labor resistance that is unfolding today. It seeks to give voice to those engaged in battle and help build solidarity. Its success depends on input from readers. If you are involved in a labor struggle or have information on one, please contact me at 306 W. 37th St., 13th Floor, New York, NY 10018; or (212) 244-4899; or We’ll work together to ensure your story is told.

— Maggie Trowe

West Coast port bosses threaten lockout of longshore union
LOS ANGELES — West Coast port bosses expanded a “mini-lockout” against members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union here Feb. 6 in an effort to force the union to accept their new contract offer. A number of issues key to dockworkers remain unresolved — including how to deal with arbitration over safety questions.

The dockworkers’ contract expired July 1. The Pacific Maritime Association, the organization that represents shipping companies and port operators, has drastically cut night shift crews since the beginning of the year.

“They locked us out on nightside,” Bobby Olvera, president of ILWU Local 13, told a rally of 6,000 union supporters in San Pedro Jan. 22. “It’s a mini-lockout.”

One worker told the Militant, “I was getting out five times a week. Now I’m getting out twice.”

A Feb. 6 bulletin from ILWU Local 13 in Los Angeles and Long Beach reported an escalation in the lockout. “This morning at negotiations, PMA President and CEO Jim McKenna informed the Coast Negotiating Team that the PMA Board of Directors has decided that from 5:00 p.m. Friday (February 6, 2015) to 8:00 a.m. Monday (February 9, 2015) no vessel labor will be ordered on the entire West Coast with the exception of dock work, rail work, military, perishables and cruise ships. A worker at the union dispatch hall in nearby Wilmington said that normally 900 to 1,000 jobs are dispatched on the weekend, but this weekend there were only 150.

Port bosses have accused the unionists of carrying out a West Coast slowdown, pointing to ships waiting to be unloaded. The union countered with photographs posted on its website showing sufficient space for thousands of containers on the docks, and blamed the port bosses for a shortage of truck chassis and the rail bosses for a shortage of trains as a result of an increase in oil transport.

The Pacific Maritime Association Feb. 4 made an updated proposal for a five-year contract, with concessions on a number of issues, including a 14 percent pay increase over five years, continuing to pay 100 percent for health care and granting union jurisdiction over maintenance and repair of truck chassis. Several key issues remain unresolved.

That day McKenna predicted a port shutdown within days if the contract is not agreed to.

“The employers’ threat to shut down West Coast ports is a reckless and unnecessary move,” responded ILWU President Robert McEllrath. “What the ILWU heard yesterday is a man who makes about $1 million a year telling the working class that we have more than our share.”

— Bill Arth

British Columbia port truckers confront new attacks
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Some 600 members of the United Truckers Association, a group that represents 1,200 union and nonunion truck drivers, met in nearby Surrey Jan. 27 to discuss how to respond to the announcement by the Port of Vancouver that 600 truckers would be laid off Feb. 1 with no regard to seniority.

This was their second meeting in two weeks in opposition to attacks on gains they won in a strike last March.

That strike won significant raises for hourly paid truck drivers, and a rate hike and compensation for waiting time for owner-operators who are paid by the load.

“I’ve lost my license to work at the port,” Thang Nguyen, a trucker, told the Militant at the meeting. “How do I support my kids?”

“They made a deal and they lied,” said Lawson Lam, an owner-operator, at the protest. “We might as well shut the port down.”

At the meeting Paul Johal, president of the Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association, the largest union organizing Vancouver port drivers, asked that no action be taken for two days to give the port the opportunity to agree to the truckers’ demands.

The drivers at the meeting decided to organize a caravan of several hundred trucks the next day from Surrey to Vancouver, and some 300 truckers and supporters rallied in Surrey Jan. 31.

“If truckers are going to be laid off it should be by seniority,” Albert Singh, a port trucker for 25 years, told the Militant at the Jan. 31 rally. “The port shouldn’t be able to pick and choose. It’s unjust.”

— Mike Barker and Steve Penner

Related articles:
Support grows as national oil workers strike spreads
Safety of workers, communities key issue
All out to back striking oil workers!
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