2009 Caucus and Convention Report by SonnyWoodcock


									      2009 Caucus and Convention Report
                       by Local 10 Delegate Jack Heyman #8780

San Francisco May Day march 2008: Local 10 led the antiwar West Coast ports shutdown. Now union
tops try to take credit for the protest, but they didn't even speak or participate in any of the rallies.

    The ILWU Convention, representing                 important Clerks’ Local 34 resolution
locals from all of our union’s divisions –            crafted by Eddie Gutierrez called for rank-
warehouse, maritime (IBU), Hawaii,                    and-file compliance committees in each
Canada and longshore – was held in                    local to make PMA comply with the
Seattle June 8-12. The Longshore Caucus,              contract which they are unilaterally ripping
representing all West Coast longshore,                up. There was intense debate, I pointed out
clerk and walking boss locals, convened               that without job action we’re not going to be
the following week. Delegates were                    able to protect our jobs and conditions, but
democratically-elected to represent their             in the end it was defeated because the Coast
locals. When in session, these are the                Committee opposes rank-and-file action.
highest bodies of the ILWU respectively.                  Anthony Leviege from Local 10
    The Caucus and Convention were held               submitted a resolution to stop PMA attacks
amidst the worst capitalist economic crisis           by strictly following the safety code and
in decades, going back to the ‘30’s when              stopping requests of clerks and
our union was forged during militant class            longshoremen and bringing all steadymen
struggles against the employers and the               back to the hall, a powerful move that
government. However, today employers’                 would show employers who controls the
attacks are being met by an ILWU that is              waterfront. Unfortunately, some Local 10
more top-down than bottom-up controlled,              delegates decided to delete the steadymen
less democratic and less militant. In short,          part of the resolution. Even the weakened
the leadership of the Longshore division,             amended version was defeated at the
historically the most militant section of the         Caucus.
union, now sees itself in partnership with                    Local 10 Wins Backing on the
PMA employers.                                                    Ruffin/Harrison Case
    This came out it very clearly on some                That is not to say that militants lost
key votes. So at the Longshore Caucus,                every fight. A highlight of the Longshore
resolutions from Locals 10 and 34 (San                Caucus was the resolution to defend Local
Francisco) and Local 8 (Portland) calling for         10 brothers Jason Ruffin and Aaron
rank-and-file action to fight employers’              Harrison. At previous Caucuses this case
attacks on our jobs, working conditions,              of racist profiling under the guise of port
safety and benefits were defeated. An                 security had been discussed but nothing
definitive resolved. As members of Local           And “Don’t tie our hands.” In their “White
10 know, there has been a lot of pressure          Paper” on TWIC issued a month before the
on brothers Ruffin and Harrison to make a          Convention they called for increased TSA
deal, but they have courageously stood             staff to handle TWIC applications. Now
their ground. At the Convention the prior          the Coast Committee report calls for
week, the Coast Committee intervened to            “abandonment” of TWIC. All along
kill the same resolution in committee, so it       they’ve complied with the Coast Guard
never even reached the Convention floor.           and now they realize TWIC and the
But we didn’t give up and in the end we            Maritime Security Act are tools for the
pushed it through and won.                         employers against port workers. Smart?!
    At the Caucus, we Local 10 delegates           At the 2004 Caucus, they had Local 10’s
organized ourselves and spoke with one             resolution to oppose TWIC amended to
voice on this principled question of               read “improve” TWIC. That says it all!
opposing racial profiling by police in the             Although the Coast Committee won an
port of Sacramento. Our entire delegation          arbitration in July that PMA companies
got up and went to the front where we              must provide longshoremen escort to the
stood together in unity, even those who            terminal if they don’t have a TWIC card
had opposed the resolution. Every Local            but have a document showing they’ve
10 delegate who spoke at the mike did a            applied. To get back pay a longshoreman
good job. Special acknowledgement has to           will have to show a dispatch ticket for
go to fightin’ Steve Fyten, Eric “Stretch”         every job denied, making it virtually
Wright and Trent Willis who contributed            impossible for hallmen and steadymen to
significantly to this victory by their words       get fairly reimbursed for the weeks and
and organizing deeds. We won $100,000              months we went without pay. This
toward the legal defense and for                   arbitration is a trap to keep anger against
mobilizing ILWU locals to rally at the             TWIC contained within the pro-PMA
courthouse. Latest news is that Aaron              grievance procedure instead of job action.
Harrison’s trial has been postponed till           We won’t defeat TWIC until the maritime
November 9. The DA should drop this                labor movement is mobilized to smash it
bogus misdemeanor charge of “resisting             once and for all.
arrest”. Now we have to mobilize big-time              ILWU President “Big Bob” McEllrath
at the courthouse for Jason and Aaron.             berated the rank and file for being a bunch
    As we all know, one of the major               of “paper tigers” who talk militant but do
attacks we are facing on docks is the              nothing. However, the International
TWIC card. I have opposed the TWIC                 Officers laughed when Local 10
repeatedly since it was first proposed, as         introduced a resolution pointing out how
have others in the union. A recent report          PMA head McKenna bragged he kicked
by the National Employment Law Project             ILWU’s ass on this year’s failed May Day
that came out just after the Caucus                action to stop TWIC and stop attacks on
reported     that    more     than    54,000       immigrant workers. They couldn’t contain
applications for TWIC cards had been               themselves at Local 10’s defeated action,
rejected and more than 70 percent of those         but they never raised a finger to support
appealing the denials were African                 the action. Now, McKenna sees blood and
American or Latino, and 40 percent                 wants to go after our benefits! The Coast
involved immigrants. This is a racist,             Committee boasted that it agreed with
union-busting purge on the waterfront.             PMA to cut off 5,500 dependents of
    Portland Longshore Local 8 and                 members from benefits because they
Warehouse Local 5 had resolutions                  haven’t verified relationships. In the past
opposing TWIC and Local 10 had one for             verification provisions were not vigorously
a “maritime conference to dump TWIC,”              enforced.
which I introduced. All were defeated at               There was extensive discussion on
the Convention and the Caucus. The Titled          rebuilding a waterfront culture of loyal
Officers’ arguments against action                 longshore workers who don’t sue our own
sounded like a broken record: “You gotta           union. Lawsuits are killing the union. True
be ‘smart’,” “We can’t afford lawsuits.”           enough, but union officials have to

represent the membership fairly by rooting          Death Penalty”. Our resolution called for
out racism in registration and promotions           freeing Troy Davis, Mumia Abu-Jamal, the
and by fairly representing members against          San Francisco 8, and Leonard Peltier—all
the employers and in internal union                 falsely accused of killing policemen.
business. We need to clean our own house            Martina Correia, the sister of Troy Davis
and keep the feds out!                              on death row in Georgia, spoke powerfully
           ILWU Convention:
                                                    at the Convention after Local 10 flew her
        Much Hot Air, Little Action                 there and requested permission for her to
                                                    address the delegates. She explain how 7
    So that’s what happened at the                  of the 9 witnesses have recanted saying
Longshore Caucus. Let me turn to the                police coerced them to lie and there is no
Convention now. In his opening speech               physical evidence. Her brother’s case is
President McEllrath threatened to take              supported by Archbishop Tutu, the
ILWU out of the AFL-CIO. Why? Because               European Union, the pope and even former
he wants a seat on the Executive Council.           President Jimmy Carter and ex-FBI head
In 1988 Convention delegates voted to               William Sessions.
affiliate. (I opposed joining the AFL-CIO               Martina said that racism still exists in
then because some of their affiliates had           the South. It is this racist justice system
scabbed on the IBU strike the year before.)         that’s on trial and not her brother who is
ILWU should make a principled fight                 innocent, she implored. It was the “Anti-
within the organized labor movement on              Terrorism and Effective Death Penatly
the critical issues facing the working class:       Act”     passed     under     the    Clinton
the catastrophic loss of jobs, home                 administration, she explained, that allows
foreclosures, health care for all, the war in       the state to execute an innocent man by
Afghanistan and Iraq, not just a fight over         denying her brother a new trial. When she
a seat at AFL-CIO’s Big Table.                      finished speaking, Sister Martina had
    Let’s be clear on this. The Democrat            delegates on their feet applauding.
and Republican Parties are responsible for          Needless to say, the resolution passed
this capitalist crisis and they’re trying to        overwhelmingly. Afterwards, Richard
put it on the backs of the working class.           Hughes of the East and Gulf Coast
These parties represent their class, the            International Longshoremen’s Association,
bosses and bankers, not us. Obama with              Paddy Crumlin of the Maritime Union of
his trillion dollar bailout of the banks,           Australia and Frank Leys of the
troop surge in Afghanistan and not                  International      Transport        Workers
standing up against racist attacks against          Federation-- all offered support from their
Harvard Professor Gates in his own home             labor organizations for her brother’s case.
and the forced resignation of Oakland’s               The Big Debate That Never Happened:
Van Jones. Jones was Obama’s Green Jobs                       ILWU’s Name Change
Chief who had signed a petition blaming
                                                        Perhaps,    one     of  the   biggest
the Bush administration for the 9/11
                                                    controversies was a resolution backed by
attacks. Obama is not fighting for change
                                                    the International Officers to change the
but represents a continuity, more of the
                                                    name of the union back to “International
same. We need to organize our own party,
                                                    Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s
a workers party to fight for a workers
                                                    Union”.      Fortunately,  some     union
government. A critical step in that
                                                    democracy still exists and the union tops
direction would be a massive labor march
                                                    were soundly defeated. First of all, the
on Washington now for universal,
                                                    name change was voted in 12 years ago in
comprehensive health care, independent of
                                                    Hawaii, motivated by A.Q. McElrath, a
the twin parties of war profiteers and
                                                    veteran of the ILWU organizing drives in
medical profiteers.
                                                    the pineapple canneries and other social
  Local 10 Led the Way Fighting Racist              struggles. (The Convention was dedicated
   Repression and the Death Penalty
                                                    to A.Q. who had passed away in
   But the high point in many of the                December.) The gender neutral name
Convention delegates’ eyes was Local 10’s           International Longshore and Warehouse
resolution on “Racist Repression and the            Union reflects the change in the
composition of our membership. In Hawaii           membership. When some on those
from mostly male plantation workers, the           committees began to waiver, to their credit
ILWU is now mostly hotel workers, many             Local 10 President Melvin Mackay and
of whom are women. Also in warehouse,              Trent Willis held their feet to the fire. And
many of the houses have as many women              ILWU made history! It was the first U. S.
as men. Our biggest organizing victory in          strike against an imperialist war in
recent history was the Rite Aid campaign.          defiance of PMA and Taft-Hartley.
Its chief organizer, Debbie Fontaine, was              Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams
honored at the Convention. When the                reported that the union’s treasury could be
name change resolution hit the deck for            as low as $200,000. I asked why
discussion about a hundred delegates               Dispatcher editor Steve Stallone was fired
opposing it lined up to speak. President           without going through his union’s
McEllrath saw the writing on the wall and          grievance machinery, costing the union
wisely sent it back to the Constitution            $300,000. I was ruled “out of order.”
Committee for a fitting burial.                    Local 10 had presented editor Stallone a
    In the budget the 4 Titled Officers’           plaque for The Dispatcher’s coverage of
expenses (car, housing, travel, etc.) in           our 1997 Neptune Jade solidarity action
2008 of nearly $300,000 aren’t touched,            for the Liverpool dockers. Actually,
nor will their salaries of $418,405 be             Stallone was fired for criticizing Adam’s
affected by the economic crisis. In an             pro-Zionist Dispatcher article on his trip to
ominous sign of the direction of the               Israel paid by the Israeli government. So
ILWU, the officers proposed budget cuts            the membership paid for Adam’s firing
for union organizing, reducing up to the           Stallone.
30% funding to bring in new members, the               Local 10 submitted a resolution
lifeblood of our union.                            commending South African dockworkers
    All candidates for top offices are             for their bold strike against an Israeli ship
running unopposed except for California            protesting the recent Zionist massacre in
Coast Committee. This too is an unhealthy          Gaza. We also succeeded in passing a
indication of where the ILWU is headed—            resolution defending the Cuban 5,
toward old-fashioned business unionism             imprisoned for monitoring anti-terrorist
collaborating with the employers and top           activities in this country.
down control to stifle opposition.
                                                       As I said earlier, at the top levels in the
   Setting the Record Straight on the May          union, the leadership sees itself as partners
    Day ’08 Antiwar Ports Shutdown
                                                   with the PMA employers, and this doesn’t
    “Big Bob” tried to credit himself and          change from year to year. There is a
the Negotiating Committee for the 2008             bureaucracy at the head of the unions that
May Day shutdown. But he didn’t say why            is endangering our gains. We need to
all West Coast ports were shut down. It            increase our power to fight the attacks
wasn’t a negotiating ploy. It was a historic       coming our way, and key to doing this is
labor action against the imperialist wars in       organizing the port truckers in conjunction
Afghanistan and Iraq to demand the                 with the ILWU. Job action can defeat the
immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from           employers’ attacks. And a rank-and-file
the Middle East. That’s the meat of Local          caucus based on a class struggle program
10’s resolution that passed the February           can stand up to the bosses and build
’08 Longshore Caucus after a decisive              workers democracy, strengthen the union
debate led by our Vietnam vets. The                and oust the “paper tigers” at the top.
Negotiating Committee and Safety
Committee were obligated to make sure              September 17, 2009
they carried out the will of the


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