Militant Longshoreman No. 5
No. 5 February 4, 1983
Caucus and Convention Delegate
No Give – Backs. No Lay – Offs
In the last Militant Longshoreman the editor wrote about the critical state of the union, the need for an offensive program to save our jobs, and the danger of further disastrous concessions. These questions will come to a focus at the Longshore Division Caucus and the International Convention in April of this year. This issue of the Militant Longshoreman will talk about the two most critical dangers to the Longshore Division: 1) loss of jurisdiction through a combination of raiding and hiring non-union scabs and 2) lay-offs.
Given the economic crisis, the decline in foreign trade, and the cut-throat competition in shipping, we can expect an attack on our waterfront jurisdiction loading and unloading ships and barges. At Richmond Yard 3 last December, Operating Engineers Local 3 collaborated with Levin Terminals to raid our jurisdiction. We stood helplessly out in the muddy street while a barge was unloaded and loaded by non-ILWU and non-union people working unsafely and at substandard wages. But the stakes in Richmond are much higher than one or more barges. Construction at Yard 3 is rapidly nearing completion as a coal exporting facility and Levin management is up front that the ILWU has no place in their plans. Utah, Wyoming, and Nevada coal shipments out of Northern California are expected to increase enormously during the next few years. Selby (among other places) is being talked about for building more loading facilities. The various companies getting into this lucrative business will be encouraged to bypass the ILWU if Levin gets away with it at Richmond. It’s reported that Levin will start handling coal within 30 to 60 days; around 16 full-time jobs are immediately at stake.
Looking further down the road, we can expect businesses owning private docks to look around for non-PMA stevedoring outfits (or create them!) to load and unload vessels with non-ILWU and non-union labor. The jurisdiction sections of our contract protect our jobs only where PMA member companies are involved.
THE BEST WEAPONS: MASS PICKETING AND UNION SOLIDARITY
How can we protect our jurisdiction? Mass pickets to stop scabbing and union solidarity to avoid isolation are the only weapons that will work. A handful of token “informational pickets” helplessly standing in the street while scabs drive past splashing mud on them won’t protect our jobs. But (we are told) if we do try to stop scabs the courts will issue injunctions limiting us to a few token pickets and the cops will beat on us while, they escort scabs past us. For the last 35 years the Taft-Hartley law has given judges the right to issue “restraining orders” against mass picketing and “secondary boycott” picket lines. Thousands of strikes have been lost when workers obeyed strike-breaking, union-busting court orders.
This doesn’t have to go on. Even the government has been known to back off when faced with massive union action. Several years ago the State of Washington tried to break the Inland Boatmen’s Union manning Puget Sound Ferries. A state-wide strike of all ILWU locals supported by the IBT shut down Puget Sound, made the State back down and saved the IBU. We must organize now for just such port-wide strike action the minute another non-ILWU cargo operation (barge or ship) begins in Richmond. The full power of our union to shut down the port and put thousands of men on the picket line will be necessary to make clear to the murderous Richmond cops that union busting and scabherding will not be permitted.
Even our token picketing last December hurt Levin; Teamster truck drivers refused to go through our picket lines. Several months earlier Teamster warehousemen at the giant Sealand CFS in Oakland went on strike and picketed the Sealand piers at 14th St. When the ILWU honored the picket lines, Sealand had to capitulate. We must take the lead in initiating and building such joint support actions to defend each other against take-aways and union-busting. When the ILA negotiates a contract this fall, we must make it clear that we will honor their picket lines like we did in 1977 but that this time we won’t permit the courts to bust our solidarity action.
NO MORE TAKE-AWAYS! NO GIVE-AWAYS
The editor warned in Militant Longshoreman #4 last month that it looks like we are being softened up for concessions. Our International officers have “negotiated” wage freezes in Warehouse and in Hawaii. They have alibied and justified two of the historic betrayals in longshore: M&M, in which we gave up manning scales and job action, and 9.43 where we allowed PMA to undermine the hiring hall. Herman and the other officers have no program to meet the jobs crisis in longshore; they can only point to PGP and the “no-layoff” clause of the contract. Contractual guarantees sure didn’t protect the auto workers from wage and benefit cuts and Supplement III provides for layoffs “…should unusual circumstances develop…” The unusual circumstances are already herel After haunting the hall for four to five days without getting a job, longshoremen are beginning to mutter “we have too many men”. Our leaders are not shouting as they should be “we have too few jobs”. In the past they co-operated with PMA’s attempt to export poverty by forcing hundreds of longshoremen to transfer out of this port. Now they squash and ridicule any aggressive program for jobs (manning scales, shorter work shift), leaving the field open to debating which concessions like lay-offs we should swallow.
Strike action will be necessary just to block takeaways. We ought to take a lesson from the Canadian Chrysler workers who three months ago struck on their own against give-backs. The UAW US-Canadian brass sabotaged and isolated the strike. Nonetheless, they and Chrysler were forced to reopen negotiations. Many of the proposed benefit cuts were withdrawn and Chrysler was forced to offer a substantially better although still inadequate wage package.
NEEDED: A PROGRAM TO UNITE TRADE UNIONS, UNEMPLOYED, BLACKS, RETIRED
Not even the most aggressive trade union program has a chance of success unless the unions take the lead in defending the livelihood of the 80% of unorganized workers, the over 10% who are unemployed, and the millions of retired, disabled and destitute who are suffering from cutbacks in social benefits.
The employers will try to hire the unemployed and destitute as scabs unless the unions organize them first. When the ILWU was founded in the strikes of 1934, the union took action successfully to win over casual dock workers who could have been recruited to scab. The six hour day was demanded and won not to give overtime pay for the last two hours but to provide jobs for all who had fought in the strike. The union controlled hiring hall was the membership’s guarantee to each other that there would be no discrimination on the basis of race, religion, age, political beliefs, union loyalty, etc.
The Teamster strikers in Minneapolis in 1934 went even further. They won the unemployed to their side by organizing IBT auxiliaries of unemployed workers and workers on federal public works relief projects. These auxiliaries, backed by Teamster solidarity actions , fought for higher relief benefits for the unemployed and living wages for federal WPA workers.
That’s the basis for Point 5 of the Militant Longshoreman program which calls for: “Organize the unorganized and the unemployed. Labor strikes to stop cuts in Social Security, Medical, Medicare.”
Keylor will argue for such a program at the International Convention. It is a key for union survival and will be a critical step in forging an alliance between the employed and the poor. Such an alliance must be carried forward under the leadership of a workers party based on the unions to an actual fight to establish a workers government which will provide jobs for all through a planned socialist economy.
VOTE FOR STAN GOW BUT WATCH WHAT HE DOES
I had hoped Stan would think about what I’d said last month. Instead, he defended the new policies being pursued by the Militant Caucus and criticized his own fighting instincts. As I said, the Militant Caucus in Local 6 is largely pursuing extra-union issues and is paying less and less attention to union problems. Apparently discouraged by the near paralysis of Local 6, the constant giveaways engineered by the leadership (the last Master Contract included a 6 month wage freeze), and the inability of the membership so far to organize to halt these sellouts, the Caucus is turning its attention elsewhere, largely abandoning workers who are still employed and in the union. Recognizing the danger posed to our survival by Reagan’s drive toward nuclear war and by the growth of the fascists around the fringes of U.S. society, the Militant Caucus is beginning to look for shortcuts. Downgrading the fact that the most effective opposition to the native fascists in the 1930’s and to Roosevelt’s war drive which brought the U.S. into World War II came from within unions led by class-struggle Trotskyist militants centered in the Teamsters in Minneapolis, the Caucus and their co-thinkers in Workers Vanguard are increasingly directing their organizing activity away from the unions and towards the unemployed, particularly in the ghettos.
THE UNION CAN BE CHANGED BUT THE MILITANT CAUCUS DOUBTS IT
Rather than openly stating their reorientation and defending it politically, they are trying to camouflage it by extending their correct historic opposition to the union bureaucracy into a blanket condemnation of the union. For example, they now say that because certain sections of the ILWU leadership are racist that it’s OK to give backhanded support to court suits against the union (the Gibson Case). (Why didn’t Stan say he’s for defending the hiring hall against the government and that instead of longshoreman fighting longshoreman over ever fewer jobs, we should strike together coastwise for 6 for 8, all skill jobs through the hall, manning scales on container ships and full A status to all B men now?) Also, Stan now says that the union is so rotten that he’s just running for Caucus and Convention to expose Herman and the Caucus delegates rather than trying to win sections of the coast delegates over to a fighting program. Similarly the Militant Caucus doesn’t want to fight for d South African cargo boycott because they think a limited strike would only serve to rebuild Herman’s credentials.
SELF IMPOSED ISOLATION
Equally dangerous is the Militant Caucus’ developing position that anyone is a hopeless case who is at this time pro-Democratic or supports the strategy of pressuring the Democratic Party. That makes it OK to boycott their activities (the anti-Nazi march in Oroville) or even to urge workers not to demonstrate against Reaganism under the present pro-Democratic Party union leadership. Stan’s statement that “it was a bad thing that thousands of workers were out there that day because it strengthened the hands of our enemies” summarizes this developing abstentionist position. In effect Stan and the Militant Caucus have said: accept our leadership’ or we’ll have nothing to do with you. This policy is out and out self-isolating sectarianism.
Until recently the Militant Caucus and.their co-thinkers would have been in Oroville, (as I and other longshoremen were), carrying signs aimed at winning the anti-Nazi demonstrators over to the winning strategy of labor/black/latino defense guards instead of essentially abandoning Oroville’s black community by dismissing their misdirected efforts at self-defense as “an adventure” (remember Taft, California, 1975?). Until recently the Caucus would have been in the labor parade with signs calling for a break with the Democrats and for a workers party as they did in last year’s SF Solidarity Day with PATCO labor parade. This year Stan marched with the 50-70,000 other unlonists who deeply resent Reagan’s policies which breed unemployment, cuts in medical care, cuts in care for the aged, etc., but he marched with no sign distinguishing him from the pro-Democratic “Vote Labor for Jobs and Justice”; and when I was subjected to an anti-communist exclusion for carrying a sign calling for a workers party and specifically for a vote for the Spartacist candidates for SF Supervisor, Stan kept right on marching without a word of protest.
Now on the subject of “redbaiting”. Many union members in both Local 6 and 10 know that Stan and I have long been supporters of the political program of the Spartacist League and its paper the Workers Vanguard, and know that in the past we were both supported by it. Last year in Militant Longshoreman #2 I referred to “differences… with some Caucus members on issues which did not involve the union or the Caucus program.” These differences did involve the WV and the Spartacist League whose program I support but of whose practices I am increasingly critical.
Much of what Stan writes was, in the past, and is now influenced by the views of the WV. WV reports extensively on Stan’s leaflets. I support their right to report on and attempt to influence the ILWU as I support this right for any tendency in the workers movement. But I don’t support WV when they distort things in a misguided effort to make their organization and its genuinely socialist program look better any more than I support the People’s World (with its reformist program and apologias for the liberal capitalists and their labor lieutenants) when the PW distorts things to make their organization look better.
STAN SHOULD FIGHT
I urge you to vote for Stan again for Caucus and Convention delegate — but watch what he does. Stan and the Militant Caucus have shifted ground but they have by no means broken clearly from class struggle politics. Stan is still running on a supportable class struggle program. To regain his orientation toward fighting for a new leadership to build a fighting union which will work in the interests of all workers he’ll have to fight first within the Militant Caucus and with their political co-thinkers in WV to return to their old policies. I hope he does fight and I hope that he succeeds.
MILITANT LONGSHOREMAN PROGRAM
1.DEFEND OUR JOBS AND LIVELIHOOD – Reopen the contract if PMA cuts the PGP. For six hours work at eight hours pay; manning scales on all ship operations; one man, one job. Call all SEO men back to the hall. Prepare the union for a coastwise fight to delete 9.43, SEO, and crane supplement sections from the contract.
2.DEFEND THE HIRING HALL – No, surrender of union control over registration.
3.DEFEND UNION CONDITIONS AND SAFETY THROUIGH JOB ACTION – No dependance an arbitrators. Mobilize to smash anti-labor injunctions.
4.DEFEND OUR UNION – No second class B or C registration lists. Full class A status for all B men coastwise. Keep racist anti-labor government and courts out of the union. Support all ILWU locals against court suits and government “investigations”. Union action to break down racial and sexual discrimination on the waterfront.
5.BUILD LABOR SOLIDARITY – against government/employer strikebreaking. No more PATCOs. Honor all picket lines. Don’t handle struck or diverted cargo. No raiding of other unions. Organize the unorganized and the unemployed. Labor strikes to stop cuts in Social Security, MediCal, Medicare.
6.STOP NAZI/KLAN TERROR through union organized labor/black/Latin defense actions. No dependance on capitalist police or courts to smash fascists.
7.WORKING CLASS ACTICN TO STUD YONCMS WAR DRIVE AGAINST IM SOVIET UNION – Oppose reactionary boycotts against. Soviet and Polish shipping. Labor strikes against military blockades of Cuba or Nicaragua. Boycott military cargo, to Chile, South Africa, El Salvador and Israel.
8.INTERNATIONAL LABOR SOLIDARITY – Oppose protectionist trade restricttons. ILWU support to military victory of leftist insurgents in El Salvador. Defend the Palestinians – U.S. Marines, Israelis, French and Italian troops out of Lebanon.
8. BREAK WITH DEMOCRATIC AND REPUBLICAN PARTIES – Start now to build a workers party based on the unions to fight for a workers government which will seize all major industry without payment to the capitalists and establish a planned economy to end exploitation, racism, poverty and war.