Militant Longshoreman No 7

Militant Longshoreman

No #7  January 5, 1984

Re- Elect Keylor (36-A) to Executive Board

Build A Fighting Union

“What’s going to happen with our contract?”

That’s the question asked dozens of times a day on the waterfront. Everyone sees the U.S. employers demanding and getting wage cuts and contractual take-sways all dot-in the line. The army of unemployed remains at a high level, no end of the depression is in sight, and the visciously anti-labor Reagan administration seems determined to make workers and minorities pay for the depression. On the other hand the organized labor movement, which has declined to less than 20% of the work force, has given only isolated and sporadic resistance to emnloyer/government attacks.

The real question that needs to The asked (and answered) is, “What, is the state of our union and what can we do about it?” Let’s start by taking a quick look at the record for 1983. This newsletter neinted out last car that one of the most alarming symptoms of our weakness was the PMA’s increasingly blatant violation of the contract on the job. At that time, 1982, the officers had tried in a limited way to resist employer contract violations. But no sooner were they re-elected when our officers appeared to collapse; now almost no resistance is offered. Tn fact, inexcusable concessions violating the contract are frequently granted, such as permitting PMA companies to work past the contractual shift quitting time.

PMA ran two big tests on us this year, one coastwise and one locally. Coastwise occured when the reconvened Negotiating Committee met with PMA to discuss the continuous 3-shift proposal. PMA dropped the three shift idea and proposed to reconstruct PGP eligibility and earnings so that a longshoreman’s PGP would be based on his individual earnings. This divisive move, which would have drastically cut PGP for San Francisco longshoremen, was just, narrowly rejected. PMA will undoubtedly try gain this year.

Locally PMA demanded, and it looks like they will get, a drastic cut in gangs. This attack on the gang system came at the same time PMA was bypassing the gangs by ordering “unit gangs” or” make-up gangs” at the last minute on break bulk cargo. Instead of exposing PNIA’s sabotage of the gang system by refusing to dispatch these non-contractual “unit” and “make-up” gangs, the officers attempted to “negotiate” concessions and finally arbitrated the issue. Instead of defending the gang system so that we could go over to the offensive in 1984 and demand that gangs be used on container ships, the formula agreed to by the officers and the Executive Board spells the end of gangs in San Francisco.

The International and the Coast Committee gave no leadership or help to the local in resisting PMA during 1983. When they weren’t “unavailable” their “advice” was usually limited to telling the local to put it in the grievance machinery. We all know what that means — let the arbitrator decide!


A year ago we warned in Militant Longshoreman #5 that Levin’s threat to our job jurisdiction could only be met by shutting down the port, mass picketing of Paar 5 (old Richmond Yard 1), getting support of other maritime unions, and ignoring injunctions. When the membership saw the threat to their jobs materialize that’s exactly what they did! Levin was stopped cold in their attempt to take auto, container, and break bulk cargo out from under our jurisdiction. Local 10 membership proved that when they see a threat clearly they stand ready to put. up one hell of a fight.

As the Militant Longshoreman has been pointing out (and the Longshore Militant before that) the union lacks and needs a class-struggle leadership that knows what needs to be done, has a strategy for getting it, and has confidence in the rank and file to fight. Our local officers, who probably had good intentions when they started, lack any of these qualifications and have failed dismally to give any real leadership. Just for example: Our local President Brother Carr showed his lack of confidence in the membership by ruling “out of order” more Executive Board and membership motions than any other presiding officer that the author can ever remember seeing in the ILWU. Brother Carr clearly feared the membership’s judgement.


The above is the second most frequent question asked this season. Maybe the easiest way to approach an answer is to describe the main parts of a candidate’s program that shows if he has some idea of what it takes for a union even to defend its’ members, let alone wage an offensive battle for what workers need.

First – the union has to be willing to break out of the hand-cuffs and leg-irons imposed on us, take job action and strike action that may violate the work-now – arbitrate later provisions of the contract. Ask your favorite candidate whether he agrees that we have to be ready to defy court injunctions when the chips are down. Most of them — if they are honest– will tell you that they don’t want to go to jail.

Second – Labor unity: No union can win alone. We have to rebuild the kind of, labor unity that enabled unions in the 30s to organize millions of workers in the face of massive opposition from employers. That means mass picketing and refining to handle seat, or struck cargo.

Third – International working class solidarity. Corporations are organized worldwide but the labor movement is divided up by national boundaries. We need to take concrete actions to support workers outside U.S. borders. Your officers didn’t even tell you about the Canadian longshore strike (and that is the same union) where cargo was being diverted to the Puget, Sound area.

Fourth – Labor can only depend on its own working class strength and power. The government is hostile to labor and only grants concessions (unemployment insurance, Social Security etc.)) to “keep the peace”. law suits that bring the courts and government into the union are extremely dangerous. At best they end up with a pro-capitalist judge rewriting your contract. At worst they can permanently strangle unions’ ability to take the necessary strike actions to wring concessions from the employers.

Fifth – Workers need their own political party. None of our problems can be permanently solved under capitalism. But tailing after the Democrats, as our local and International officers do, leads them to avoid strikes and try to win a few crumbs from the pro-capitalist politicians.

When you look around the hall you see a bushel basket of candidates for union office who either duck these questions or come down on the wrong side of a winning class-struggle program. That’s why the Militant  Longshoreman is making no endorsements at this time.


Before the February round of elections, which will elect Caucus delegates, another issue of this newsletter will describe what we will have to defend, what we need, and how we can get it. The program printed on the back page describes very briefly the position of Howard Keylor on the main issues facing longshoremen and other workers.


We can expect Stan Gow and the Longshore/Warehouse Militant Caucus to again come out just before the election with a leaflet entitled “No Vote for Keylor – the fink, racist, would-be bureaucrat, Nazi lover, wife beater etc….”. The union faces threats far too serious to waste much paper and ink in a pissing contest or to try eternally to deny and refute slanders and lies. We’ve already devoted more than enough newsprint to this purpose. Enough said.



Reagan is driving whole-hog toward a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. The U.S. labor bureaucrats are falling right in line behind the anti-communist hysteria  generated by Reagan’s provocations toward the U.S.S.R. Our union in the past (1950 – Korean war – for example) stood almost along at times, resisting anti-communist war hysteria. But when the 007 Korean passenger plane (spy plane) was shot down President Herman flinched badly when he said in effect that the Soviet Union doesn’t have the right (and the obligation) to defend it’s most important Far Eastern military bases from provocative incursions. Instead of condemning the log Angeles Local 13 Longshore leadership which refused to work a Russian ship and instead of attacking Reagan for trying to precipitate World War III, Jimmy gave backhanded support to Reagan’s anti-Soviet crusade painting the Soviet Union as a brutal, satanic, evil empire. To their credit Canadian and Mexican longshoremen continued to work Russian ships.

We would remind Jimmy Herman that PATCO’s kissing Reagan’s ass didn’t save the Air Controllers union from being smashed and its’ leaders from being jailed.


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. Full C.O.L.A. on wages. No cap, weekly PGP; no 25%  “coding out” rule; no further restrictions on PGP eligibitity. No “take back” on travel time.

2. DEFEND THE HIRING HALL – Use regular gangs  on container ships; no dispatch of “unit gangs”. Prepare the union for a coastwise fight to eliminate 9.43, S.E.O., and crane supplement from the contract.

3. DEFEND UNION CONDITIONS AND SAFETY THROUGH JOB ACTION Stop PMA chiseling on the contract. Elminate “work as directed”, “no illegal work stoppage”, and arbitration sections from the contract. Mobilize to smash anti-labor injunctions.

4. DEFEND OUR UNION – Eliminate class R registration category from the contract – promote all class B to class A coastwise. Keen racist anti-labor government and courts out of the union. Support all ILWU, locals’ resistance against court suits and government “investigations”. Union action to break down racial and sexual discrimination and employer favoritism 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/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 against military litary blockades of Cuba or Nicaragua. Boycott military cargo to Chile, South Africa, El Salvador, Israel, and Turkey.

8. INTERNATIONAL LABOR SOLIDARITY – Oppose protectionist trade restrictions. ILWU support to military victory of leftist insurgents in El Salvador. Defend the Palestinians – U.S. Marines out of Lebanon -by all means necessary.

9. 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.