On the picket line

Northwest longshore workers struggle

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, whose members operate port terminals and shipping lines on 29 West Coast ports, began negotiations May 12 with the Pacific Maritime Association. The current contract covering nearly 20,000 dockworkers expires at midnight on June 30.

Meanwhile, two Northwest Coast locals are locked out. Members of Local 4 have been locked out of the Port of Vancouver, Wash., by United Grain owned by Mitsui, since Feb. 27, 2013. Local 8 workers have been locked out since June 1, 2013, by Columbia Grain owned by Marubeni, in Portland, Ore. A solidarity rally was held for Local 8, which Local 13 members also attended, on May 4.

On May 8, a picket line was held at the home of a tugboat captain in Longview, Wash., by longshore workers from Vancouver, Portland and Longview. The pickets were protesting Foss Maritime of Rainier, Wash., whose employees have been piloting tugboats through picket lines at Columbia Grain in Portland. Foss is using management captains to cross the picket line. The ILWU and the Northwest Grainhandlers Association have been battling in Portland since a labor contract expired in 2012. ­
­(tdn.com, May 9)

“This successful operation of nonunion ports for the first time since 1934 is a serious threat to the future of the ILWU and the victory in the West Coast contract when it expires in 2014,” reported an April 27 Transport Workers Solidarity Committee press release. Stay tuned.

NYC area contracted airport workers vote union

Commitment cards signed by thousands of New York area airport workers were counted at a raucous, joyous meeting on May 12. The results: 4,051 out of 6,393 workers at 13 leading airport service provider contractors signed to join Service Employees union Local 32BJ in the fight for higher wages and a voice in the workplace. The workers clean jet cabins, provide wheelchair assistance, handle bags, secure the terminals and fulfill other responsibilities. These jobs had once been positions with the airline companies themselves. To increase profits, the airlines spun off the jobs as low-wage contract work. The board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the three airports, voted in April to adopt a minimum wage policy where workers get a $1-per-hour initial raise and a bump to $10.10 an hour by 2015.

“I know it’s not going to be easy, but I am confident we will get a union, that we will get a contract that pays us fair wages and benefits, and that we will get respect and dignity in our workplaces,” Michael Carey, a Kennedy Airport security officer who was master of ceremonies, said to more than 200 delegates at the event. Out of a total of about 12,000 contracted passenger service workers at the three airports, about 2,300 belong to other unions and about 1,000, largely security officers, already belong to 32BJ. (32BJ press release, May 14)

Women’s Economic Security Act passed in Minnesota

On Mother’s Day, May 11, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed the Women’s Economic Security Act, which includes measures to close the gender pay gap, expand unpaid parental leave from six to 12 weeks and allow its use for pregnancy-related needs, and support women-owned businesses in nontraditional industries. Another provision requires that private-sector businesses with 40 or more employees seeking state contracts over $500,000 must comply with the state’s pay equity policy by certifying they are paying men and women equally in the same job categories. Other features counteract the negative economic results of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault; expand unemployment insurance eligibility currently available to victims of domestic violence to include victims of stalking and sexual assault; and allow employees to use existing earned sick leave to recover from sexual assault, domestic violence or stalking. n