Militant Longshoreman No 14

Militant Longshoreman

No #14  January 3, 1986

Re-Elect Keylor to Executive Board

A few days ago a brother approached the editor and asked, “Are you still going to run for office on that pie in the sky program? Stan [Gow] doesn’t print up a program any more. You know the union is going down hill fast and these guys won’t fight PMA – and sure not the government.” This leaflet will try to respond to these questions.

First a few obvious examples why this brother is so pessimistic. The 1984 contract settlement allowed PMA to code hundreds of men out of PGP. The local was unable to stop many of these brothers from losing health and welfare benefits.

The increasingly desperate job squeeze for older men led to a dangerous confrontation between Locals 34 and 10 over the extra clerk jobs. At one point the Local 10 Executive Board seriously debated taking our sister local to court — a clear invitation to the capitalist courts to “administer” our contract. One of the few positive events this past year is that this issue was finally resolved, leaving our two locals free to fight PMA instead of each other.

The decline in traditional winch and lift skilled jobs due to containerization and the monopoly of better paid skilled jobs by 9.43 men means that a longshoreman in San Francisco has to spend 20 years working on the hold board. During the last couple of years we’ve seen continued attempts to wipe out seniority in promotions and skilled dispatch categories. Fortunately the membership recognized that seniority is the only remaining protection we have for older and partially disabled longshoremen, and voted these motions down.


Those members who were at the November meeting got a real shock when it was reported that the class collaboration policies of the International has reached a new low. The union side of the Coast Committee has agreed with PMA to a “screening program” for alcohol and drug use. Applicants for registration and longshoremen being promoted will be subject to a screening or check for drug and alcohol use — supposedly to make the waterfront a safer place to work. This cynical and hypocritical demand from PMA should have been summarily rejected by the union side with the counter demand that the employers stop their speed-up, unsafe work practices, and short manning that create unsafe working conditions on the waterfront. For instance: In 1984 PMA adamantly refused to even consider updating the safety code to provide for safety conditions working aboard container ships that have been in effect in Asian and European ports for years. This is just another move by the stevedoring companies to try to make the individual longshoreman legally responsible for the high accident rate in the industry.

Think about it: How will this “screening” for drug and alcohol addiction take place? This program makes all arrest and legal actions and all medical records outside the job evidence that can be used against a longshoreman. There are two outstanding dangers here. “Evidence” accumulated in this way could be used by employers to get out of paying claims to longshoremen injured on the job. Even more sinister is the danger opened up by the Coast Committee grant of approval to PMA for the acquisition of this kind of information, thereby giving the bosses another weapon to use against union activists and militants!

Almost all unions have resisted employer drug testing programs, pointing out among other reasons the notorious unreliability of these “tests”. For example: A person who never uses marijuana but happens to be in a room or enclosed space where someone else is smoking a joint will test out as a user for up to 30 days afterwards. Our local Caucus delegates must go into the February Coast Caucus and demand that the Coast Committee reverse their decision to act as cops for PMA.

There is a traditional union solution to the problem of brothers who use substances that affect their functioning. In the earlier history of the union, before Harry Bridges and his buddies surrendered so much union power and control back to PMA, the union handled such problems internally. But when our local tries to exercise union discipline as part of the effort to help our brothers overcome their problem, PMA has rushed in to stop us. Our union must reassert this right and exercise internal union discipline and control.


Most brothers and sisters see no way out of the weakness, decline and isolation of our union. We say that the history of the working class and of our union has valuable lessons that show the way for workers to protect themselves and finally seize control of society. The MILITANT LONGSHOREMAN program, printed at the end of this issue, tries to apply these lessons to our own union as a guide to those things we should fight for, and the tactics we have to use to get them. That’s why we call for concrete acts of workers’ solidarity, from joining other unions on their picket lines to political strikes against U.S. imperialist intervention against Central American revolutionary movements. Unless we break out of our isolation and help to build ties with other workers, our isolation will lead to even more defeats.

We should be ashamed that, except for a tiny handful of longshoremen, the Restaurant workers on strike for months just a couple of blocks from our hall got no help from our local. While Chilean longshoremen are in a desparate strike to defend their union, ILWU locals continue to unload cargo from that country, while the International issues mealy-mouthed statements of support. No group of workers can even defend and preserve their hard-won gains without working class solidarity. Those who forget this lesson lead the working class into one defeat after another.


Local 10 sometimes takes very good positions on paper, but doesn’t follow through. Last April our local went into the International Convention having .unanimously passed two historically important resolutions for working class solidarity. One resolution called for union wide boycott of South African cargo demanding the International organize the action, and urging other locals to make the same demand of the International. The second resolution  called for a 48-hour coastwise longshore strike if Reagan intervened militarily in Central America. [Stan Gow opposed both of these resolutions in the Executive Board — probably because Keylor proposed them.] But what happened then? Our convention delegates sat on their hands and failed to put up a fight for these resolutions allowing Jimmy Herman to line up his cronies and handraisers and defeat the proposals in the Resolutions Committee — thus preventing these issues, from even coming up on the floor for debate. Keylor was not a delegate, having failed to be elected in the February 1985 election Local 10 and our union appear even further away than in previous years from developing a class-struggle leadership — but the need is even greater. No other candidate for office besides Keylor has a program that answers the needs of our union. No other candidate is committed to such a program.


In February we will deal with the coastwise erosion of our jurisdiction and the sub-standard longshore contracts being negotiated by the International. We’ll try to describe an alternative to this no-win strategy to stop nonunion longshore operators.

We’ll also deal with the danger to workers posed by protectionism, union busting and the growing racist and fascist movements.


1. DEFEND OUR JOBS AND LIVELIHOOD – Six hour shift, no extensions,at eight hours pay. Manning scales on all ship operations; one man, one job. Weekly PGP, eliminate all “coding out” rules. Full-no-cap C.O.L.A on-wages.  Joint-Maritime union action against non-union barge operations.

2. DEFEND THE HIRING HALL – Use regular gangs on container ships; no dispatch of “unit gangs”. Call all 9.43 men back to the hall. Stopwork action to defend the hiring hall, the stop line, and older and disabled men.

3. DEFEND UNION CONDITIONS AND SAFTEY THROUGH JOB ACTION – Stop PMA chiseling on the contract. Eliminate “work as directed”, “no illegal work stoppage”, and arbitration sections from the contract. Mobilize to smash anti-labor injunctions. No employer drug or alcohol screening.

4. DEFEND OUR UNION – Eliminate class B registration category from the contract – promote all class B to class A coastwise. Keep racist anti-labor government and courts out of the union. Support union resistance against court suits and government “investigations”. Union action to break down racial and sexual discrimination and employer favoritism on the waterfront. Organize now for a coastwise contract fight to get what we need.

5. BUILD LABOR SOLIDARITY – against government/employer strikebreaking. No more PATCOs. Honor all picket lines – remove reactionary ones. 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 and Workmen’s Compensation.

6. STOP NAZI/KLAN TERROR through union organized labor/black/Latino defense actions. No dependance on capitalist police or courts to smash fascists.

7. WORKING CLASS ACTION TO STOP REAGAN’S WAR DRIVE AGAINST THE SOVIET UNION – Oppose reactionary boycotts against Soviet and Polish shipping. Labor strikes to oppose U.S. military actions against Cuba, Nicaragua, or Salvadoran leftist insurgents. Boycott military cargo to Chile, El Salvador, Israel and Turkey. Defy the apartheid injunction. Boycott all South African cargo.

8. INTERNATIONAL LABOR SOLIDARITY – Oppose protectionist trade restrictions. Defend undocumented workers with strike action. ILWU support to military victory of leftist insurgents in El Salvador.

9. BREAK WITH THE 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.