Thursday, July 03, 2008

[olympiaworkers] Shipping companies file charges over May Day ILWU anti-war strike

Shipping companies file charges over May Day ILWU anti-war strike

US West Coast dockers who struck against the war on May 1st now face a legal threat from their employers.

The Pacific Maritime Association has asked the National Labor Relations Board to file charges against the union. The employers' move, initiated in late May, comes in the midst of ongoing contract talks.

The threat was revealed to several hundred trade unionists at the National
Shop Stewards Network annual conference in London on Saturday. Four
delegates from ILWU Local 10 – Samantha Levens, Anthony Leviege, Robert
Irminger and Jack Heyman – were greeted with a standing ovation as they
entered the hall. In workshops and informal discussion, they explained how
their historic strike had been organised.

The NSSN is the first non-party inter-union coordination of rank and file
trade unionists in Britain for many years. Initiated by the RMT, it now
involves members spread across most major unions in England, Wales,
Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Platform speakers on Saturday included the
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow, POA General Secretary Brian Caton, and PCS
President Janice Goodrich. Interest in the ILWU story was intense. Jack
Heyman told the final plenary that imperialist wars abroad meant
repression at home, and ending the war would benefit all workers.

The strike had its origins in the Labor Conference to Stop the War, held
in San Francisco last October and to which the RMT sent 6 delegates.
Conference called on individual unions to establish policy in favour of
industrial action against the war. In February, the ILWU Longshore Caucus
debated a resolution from Local 10. Vietnam veterans spoke in that debate,
and swung the vote to overwhelming support for workers' action to stop the
war. While the original motion called for a 24 hour stoppage, the union
opted for 8 hours and then tried to use the normal facility of a monthly
stop-work meeting. However, the employers refused to grant this facility
and the stoppage went ahead without their permission.

First ever US strike against war

The longshore action on International Workers Day was the first ever US
strike against war, closed all 29 West Coast ports and inspired a
solidarity stoppage in the Iraqi Port of Basra. The PMA claims it
constituted an "unlawful secondary boycott".

The legal threat may be a ploy in contract talks. The current agreement
expired today (1st July). During previous negotiations in 2002, the then
Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfield warned the union that industrial action would constitute a
threat to national security, and theatened to bring troops to occupy the
docks in the event of a strike over the contract. In their submission to
the NLRB filed on 27 May, the PMA declared:

On or about February 8, 2008, and at all times thereafter, the
International Longhsore and Warehouse Union ("ILWU") has engaged in the
planning, coordination and publication of a work stoppage scheduled to
occur on or about May 1, 2008 at ports throughout the West Coast. On May
1, 2008, the threatened work stoppage occurred and caused the closure of
virtually every major port in California, Oregon and Washington. The ILWU
did not have a dispute with PMA, a multi-employer bargaining association,
or any of PMA's approximately 70 member stevedoring, terminal and shipping
companies, all of whom employ ILWU members. Rather, according to the
Union's public statements, the purpose for the work stoppage was to
protest the United States Government and its current military policy,
specifically regarding the war in Iraq.

The ILWU's actions in connection with the May 1, 2008 work stoppage
constituted an unlawful secondary boycott in violation of the Section 8
(b) (4) (B) of the Act. The ILWU induced and encouraged its members to
refuse to perform their jobs and threatened and restrained PMA and its
member companies with the work stoppage. In doing so, the ILWU prevented
PMA and its member companies from doing business and dealing with other
employers and persons, as well as each other.

Section 8 (b) (4) (B) bars labour actions aimed to force a boycott of
other companies or to compel another employer to recognise a union.

It is highly debatable whether the action constituted a "secondary
boycott". The ILWU stoppage came after the PMA refused a normal union
request that the monthly facility for stop-work meetings be granted for
the day shift on May 1st.

The NLRB must now decide whether to proceed with charges against the union.

Send solidarity messages to:

Bob McEllrath, International President, ILWU, 1188 Franklin Street, San
Francisco, California 94109. Tel: (+1 415) 775 0533 Fax: (+1 415) 775
1302. Email: robert.mcellrath [at]

Send protests to:
PMA public relations consultant, Steve Getzug, at (310) 633-9444 or
PMA Headquarters
555 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94105-2800
Phone: (415) 576-3200 Main FAX: (415) 348-8392
and to
NLRB San Francisco
901 Market Street, Suite 400
San Francisco, CA 94103-1735
Regional Director: Joseph P. Norelli Hours of Operation: 8:30 am - 5:00 pm
TEL: 415-356-5130 FAX: 415-356-5156
or use the email form for the NLRB information office

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