ILWU declares tentative contract win

The 22,000 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) at 29 ports in California, Oregon and Washington will vote in August on a June 14 tentative agreement with Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) after a contentious year-long contract struggle.

Flexing their labor power, local ILWU chapters staged several creative “concerted and disruptive work actions” that bosses called “walkouts” at major ports on the West Coast, including Oakland and Los Angeles. The job actions, like coordinated lunch breaks and work-to-rule, effectively closed selected ports for days at a time in order to pressure PMA bosses, who made record profits of $510 billion during the last few years.

The Oakland port is expected to expand ocean carrier services in the coming months, so the workers’ actions raised fears among capitalists that their bottom line would suffer. Brokered by Acting U.S. Labor Secretary Julie Su, details of the agreement remain undisclosed.

ILWU President Willie Adams said in a press release, “We aren’t going to settle for an economic package that doesn’t recognize the heroic efforts and personal sacrifices of the ILWU workforce that lifted the shipping industry to record profits.” (CNBC, June 2) Let’s see if the rank and file agree that he kept that promise when they vote on the tentative contract.

Constellium Auto Parts workers strike

Workers at the Constellium Auto Parts plant in suburban Detroit ended a four-week strike June 16, winning major progress from the bosses. The 160 members of United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 174 hit the picket line May 18 over Constellium’s failure to negotiate in good faith. Workers demanded the bosses address serious health and safety concerns. They also accused the bosses of unfair disciplinary practices. UAW has unfair labor practice charges against the company pending at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Speaking on day one, UAW Region 1A Director Laura Dickerson said, “Our negotiating team has met with the company nine times since April 18. And on every single occasion, Constellium has made it very clear they have zero interest in taking our members’ proposals seriously. This is a prime example of employer arrogance forcing the hand of its workforce.” (thedetroitbureau.com, May 18)

As a result of exercising their collective labor power, the workers won improved contractual language, including a stronger grievance procedure, and additional holidays, while also securing strong pay increases for workers. This victory comes one day after the Clarios workers, another UAW shop, ended their strike, which followed a vote by the members of UAW Local 12 to reject a contract offer last month.

According to UAW Local 12 President Bruce Baumhower, strike negotiations resulted in a new three-year contract. The agreement includes a $3,500 signing bonus, a 3% percent raise each year — totaling 9% spanning the life of the contract — and a resolution to a scheduling grievance that saw part of the plant working 12-hour days without overtime pay beyond eight hours.

These victories are in line with the new negotiating style of member-elected UAW President Shawn Fain, who is distancing the union from its long-held ties to the Democratic Party. Fain has pledged to withhold UAW endorsement of any candidate who is not strongly pro-labor. That extends all the way to the White House. Fain declined to endorse President Joe Biden until he shows more specific support for union members during the transition to electric vehicles. With UAW and major automakers contract negotiations set to begin this summer, it doesn’t look like it will be business as usual if these recent victories are any indication.

College student workers strike

Community Advisors (CA) and other student employees organized as the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers (UGSDW) are on the picket line at Grinnell College in Southeastern Iowa. Their strike began May 10. The student workers recently filed an unfair labor practice charge when the college administration declared they would not negotiate until the workers ended the strike and returned to their jobs. This demand is a clear violation of federal law.

UGSDW demands include a minimum campus-wide $15 per hour base wage for all campus workers; the ability to address discrimination and harassment through the grievance process with an independent arbitrator; a process for calling off work and taking sick leave; and health and safety/training protections.

The union now represents over 800 student workers at the college, who comprise 50% of the student population, and is campaigning to represent all workers at Grinnell. UGSDW is the first independent undergraduate union in the country. The union formed in 2016 when the student dining workers won their election and were formally recognized by the NLRB. To support the union’s strike fund: tinyurl.com/um6suw8c.

Marie Kelly

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Marie Kelly

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