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On the picket line

Published Oct 18, 2007 10:39 PM

Drop the charges, say Longshore workers

Photo: TransportWorkers.org

“You ready to fight? Damn right!” was the chant outside the Yolo County Superior Court in Woodland, Calif., on Oct. 4. More than 150 members of Local 10 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union as well as community activists set up a picket line there to support unionists Aaron Harrison and Jason Ruffin, who were being arraigned on charges of obstruction of justice.

The two were arrested on Aug. 23 after port security demanded to search their car when they returned to work after lunch. The two, who usually work at the port in Oakland, asked to see the security guards’ identification and called their union rep. After the West Sacramento police arrived, they dragged the two from their car, sprayed them with mace, and arrested them for trespassing and resisting arrest. The trespassing charge was subsequently dropped.

“[The police] think they have the right to [rough up our members and mace them],” Trent Willis, former ILWU Local 10 president, told the Woodland Daily Democrat. (Oct. 4) “You have a clear case of police brutality and racial profiling.” Community activists like Rev. Ashiya Odeye, director of the Justice Reform Coalition, concurred. “But now [the police] have made the mistake of doing this to members of a union.”

Lawyers for the workers requested a continuation of the arraignment until Oct. 22 to give them time to review the police report and other evidence.

Jack Heyman, Local 10 executive board member, warned that more protestors will be there if the charges aren’t dropped. “We’re going to get our people from San Francisco, Stockton and Oakland at the courthouse—and if they’re here, they can’t be at the docks working.”

NLRB guts voluntary union recognition

The National Labor Relations Board was never set up to be a friend of labor, though from time to time it has taken pro-worker stands. It’s been particularly hostile to collective bargaining rights during the last seven years of the Bush administration. A Sept. 29 ruling proves it.

The board ruled that if employers voluntarily recognize a union based on union authorization cards (also known as card-check), anti-union employees have a 45-day window to petition for an NLRB decertification election. The ruling stipulates that 30 percent of employees can force an election even though more than 50 percent of the workers want the union and even if a bargaining agreement has been reached during the 45-day period. (AFL-CIO blog, Oct. 3)

In a dissenting statement, two NLRB members noted the ruling “cuts voluntary recognition off at the knees” and “subjects the will of the majority to that of a 30 percent minority.”

No to ‘no-match’ rules

On Oct. 10 a federal judge in San Francisco ordered an “indefinite delay” to implementation of draconian “no-match” rules. The New York Times called the Department of Homeland Security rules “a central measure of the Bush administration’s new strategy to curb” undocumented workers. (Oct. 11)

Even though the initial lawsuit was brought by labor and civil rights groups to defend workers’ rights, the bosses, headed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, opposed the rules for very different reasons.

“Judge Breyer chastised the Department of Homeland Security for making a policy change with ‘massive ramifications’ for employers, without giving any legal explanation or conducting a required survey of the costs and impact for small businesses,” wrote the Times. It also reported “the rule could lead to the firing of many thousands of legally authorized workers, resulting in ‘irreparable harm to innocent workers and employers.’”

Stopping implementation of this rule, which could have led to the firing of up to 8.7 million workers due to inaccurate Social Security records, is a win for all workers. But it’s only a temporary victory. Brutal workplace raids, jailing of undocumented and documented workers alike, and deportations that split up families continue. So the struggle to defend workers’ rights, especially those of immigrant workers, must continue.