Militant Longshoreman No.4

Militant Longshoreman

No.4 January 7, 1983


Election time in Local 10 – a time to stand back and look at the state of the Local, the Longshore Division, and the International union. In the past we’ve described a series of losses, continued weakening of the union, and the failure of leadership to show a way out. Is anything different this year? Yes: the basic structure and strength of the union is clearly in jeopardy and the International leadership appears to be ready for major give-aways.

The basic unity of the Longshore Division is being shattered by con­flicts between locals over such issues as voluntary travel, transfers, registration, and lawsuits. Transfer of longshoremen to clerk status is still stuck on dead center in the Bay Area. The voluntary travel program is virtually dead; arbitrators have ruled that casuals in a port have dis­patch priority over men traveling voluntarily. Same locals are insisting on Class C registered casuals. Many locals are being sued by outsiders. Locals are competing with each other for work. It was inevitable that without a union-wide program of united struggle against the empliyers that local officers in some cases would fall back on deals with their “own’ enployers for short term gains. Herman’s ’78 contract paved the way for these divisions by taking a historic step backward in establishing separ­ate port steady man agreements.

Encouraged by this disunity, PMA companies have extended to the rest of the coast the practice of ordering men to work in violation of the con­tract.  When men resist, the arbitrators move promptly to declare an “illegal work stoppage” and place penalties on men and locals under Section 17.61 of the contract. Union complaints of PMA contract violations die on the vine. Often it takes eight to nine months to get Coast Committee rulings on PMA violations and there are no real penalties for employer violations.

At the April 1981 Caucus, Keylor was successful in getting a resolution on deck calling for eliminating arbitration and the no-­strike/work-as-directed clauses from the contract. While the motion was defeated, for the first time within my memory the caucus was forced to debate the fallacies of the grievance procedure. We need the unrestricted right to take job action over grievances.

The International officers haven’t even called a Longshore Caucus to discuss this crisis. A caucus has the authority to impose policies on the locals and International officers, policies which could solve some of the most glaring problems ripping the Division apart.


The scary thing is that Herman and company are floating proposals for give-aways. For example, the International is pushing for the union to give up JOINT REGISTRATION and allow PMA full power over all registra­tion matters (hiring, promotion, transfers) under the pretext of avoiding lawsuits. While such a step would jeopardize the basis of the union’s strength, the hiring hall, and would reopen the door to massive employer discrimination, it wouldn’t even protect the union legally. Many unions which don’t have joint registration are being sued.

The International’s program of total reliance on PGP as the “corner­stone” of waterfront job security has laid the basis for further “give­aways”. As many of us predicted the PGP fund is running short; weekly Payments will probably be .cut about 30% this month. At the Tacoma Divis­ional meeting the International floated the proposal to take 20 cents from the contractual wage-increase of $1.25 per hour July 11, 1993 and use that money to beef up the PGP fund.

This weakness and disunity encourages employers to run the ILWU off the docks. Levin Terminals used non-longshoremen in December to unload and then load a barge at Richmond yard #1. That week saw the most dan­gerous crisis to the Local since 1948. Legalistic solutions will fail before such attacks; the courts will not protect our jobs. Only mass picketing to stop raiding and scabbing can preserve our job jurisdiction.

The combined impact of mechanization and the depression is even more rapidly destroying our jobs. Most ports are drawing on the PGP. Even if everyone (including SEO men) shared the work equally in this port, we would all get about one or two shifts per week. We  can’t afford to postpone any longer the fight for jobs. During the 1981 contract negotiations PMA asked for continuous operations – three 8 hour shifts around the clock (seven hours work – one hour lunch) . There is talk at the local and International level of reopening the contract and giving PMA three shifts, con­tinuous operation, in return for more PGP money in the fund – or at most a no-cap weekly PGP. This move would only continue the tragic policy of selling conditions for welfare, instead of the policy of a fight for jobs.

We cannot tolerate a further cut in our standard of living. If PMA moves to cut PGP, the union must move to reopen the contract. We must defend full PGP benefits but we can’t depend on_PGP. We need jobs_-. not supplemental unemployment benefits (PGP). If the employers propose to cap their productivity drive with three continuous shifts, then we must propose a six hour shift for eight hours pay, manning scales on all operations, and one man – one job. If that’s not enough to keep all long­shoremen working, we may have to cut the shift down to five or even four hours.


The SEO–9.43 system continues to weaken the hiring hall and divide the union. The rank and file tried to protect the lift board by job action but were frustrated by Federal Court injunctions. When Keylor made his Caucus report on the 1981 contract, he warned that the new con­tract language further threatened hall jobs. He later warned that half­way measures wouldn’t work, that only a program to call all the steady men back to the hall and to mobilize the ranks to defy the courts could smash this cancer. Any candidate for Caucus Delegate who won’t commit himself now to a coastwise fight to eliminate 9.43 and SEO from the contract is only playing with the needs of the membership.


In the face of anti-labor courts, government strike-breaking, and austerity imposed on the backs of the poor and elderly to help fund Reagan’s anti-Soviet war drive, the International officers only response has been to support the Democratic party, a party which consistently sup­ports Reagan’s program in all its fundamentals. Local 10 was severely criticized at Tacoma for contributing only a small amount of money to the Political Action Fund (support Democrats Fund). I’m proud of Local 10 members for refusing to throw good money after bad. Even though they couldn’t raise money, our local officers and delegates did everything they could to lock the union once again behind the Democratic Party. Elected NCDC delegates and self-appointed ILWU Legislative Committeemen again endorsed the same old candidates and propositions without once  bringing these endorsements back to the Local for membership approval.

At the October Labor Parade our officers went along with the AFL-CIO, UAW, IBT, ILWU leaders policy of excluding any signs critical of the Demo­crats. I was excluded from the Local 10 contingent but carried my sign BREAK WITH THE DEMOCRATS/BUILD A WORKERS PARTY – VOTE COLEMAN/BRADLEY SPARTACIST CANDIDATES FOR SAN FRANCISCO BOARD CF SUPERVISORS.

When Jimmy Herman blocked any discussion of a Labor Party at the 1981 International Convention, not one Local 10 delegate joined me in trying to get the three resolutions submitted out on the floor for debate. The phony socialist delegates like Joe Figureido of Local-6 and Dave Arian of Local 13 whose Labor Party resolutions had been passed by their own locals were no better. They sat on their hands refusing to contest Herman’s bureaucratic squashing of debate. Ask all the Local 10 candidates for Convention delegate whether they will stand up and be counted on to fight at this years convention to win the union for a break with the Demo­crats and to build a workers party.


For the first time in many years there was some improvement in the Local’s functioning in 1982. Committees met, membership meetings took place, some officers were more accessible and responsive, more informa­tion got to the membership and some limited campaigns and battles were waged to defend jobs and conditions. Even these improvements will be swept away unless the membership is mobilized behind a program that can point the way out. Unfortunately none of the candidates for leading office has such a program. That’s why I’m not supporting any candidate for top office.


Last year the Militant Longshoreman supported Stan Gow for election to the Executive Board and Caucus delegate; that support was in spite of Gow’s lying and viscious attack on Keylor. I supported him because he still had the Militant Caucus program, a program for which we had both fought over a period of many years. Stan still has the program formally on paper but his actions have begun to deviate from the program in practice.

Stan has ducked taking a stand on unpopular issues, probably to avoid losing votes. Stan flip-flopped on the Gibson case where he re­fused to support Local 10 contributing our share of the money when that case was finally settled. This anti-union position was a reversal of the Militant Caucus position of defending all locals against Court suits while fighting to end discrimination through union action. Stan’s “neu­trality” in this case clearly implies that the racist, capitalist govern­ment can be relied on to protect minority rights. We must clean up our own house, not let PMA and the government divide and conquer.

Then Stan took a dive when the Polish Stalinist bureaucracy declared martial law and smashed Solidarnosc. While critical of Solidarnosc, Gow refused to say in writing or at union meetings that he supported the crush­ing of the capitalist restorationist Walesa and Company as being in the interests of the Polish workers. Keylor took this unpopular position in writing, a position which would have been consistent with Stan’s own pol­itical views.

Stan’s opportunism got him a few more votes than Keylor but anyone who ducks issues for votes cannot be trusted to stand up and be counted in times of crisis.

The basis of opportunism is the belief that you can’t win workers to face unpleasant truths, that you can’t win the organized workers to fight in their own interests. On two issues before Local 10 Stan has been content to make the record with a paper position while backing off from a fight to persuade the Local to take any real meaningful action.

When South African Longshoremen found their strike attacked as employer and government tried to break their union by firing and deporting the workers, Stan put up a long, politically correct motion at the Executive Board. The heart of his motion called for Local 10 to boycott South African cargo in solidarity with the fired black longeshoremen and in defense of their union. While there was wide opposition to most of Stan’s motion, the Executive Board vote on boycott action was very close: Eight in favor, nine against. Given the wide support for solidarity action, I approached Stan with a proposal to work together to build support for passage of a boycott  motion at the next membership meeting. Stan was uninterested had refused to cooperate saying essentially that it was his whole political motion or no boycott.

Then later in November Stan’s motion passed the membership meeting to declare December 11 our stop work meeting day and to mobilize union membership to demonstrate in defense of the black community in Oroville against Nazi/Klan terror. Dead-set against this stop work mobilization, PMA threatened to retaliate and the officers convened a special Executive Board meeting to capitulate. Stan changed his position and said he could only give the most minimal support to the demonstration unless the local adopted his new motion calling for Labor/Black defense guards. Stan did not show up at Oroville. Although I and other longshoremen marched with signs calling for Labor/Black defense guards to smash the Klan, the Militant Caucus (which also did not show up) attacked my action in marching as “reformist”! In fact, our slogans were counterposed to the sub-reformist slogans under which the march was held.

These actions are consistent with the actions of the Militant Caucus in Warehouse. There the Militant Caucus seems to have given up on building an alternative class struggle leadership, confining their activity largely to abstract propaganda on extra-union issues.

A further indication that Stan no longer believes that the unionized section of the working class will fight to defend their interests is his strange silence on the Canadian strike/lockout. When I put up motions at the Executive Board not to work diverted cargo from the struck Canadian government ports and to take solidarity strike action against the Canadian government strike breaking, Stan chose to remain silent. This silence is strange in view of the fact that a main issue for which our Canadian brothers were on the bricks was their resistance to extension of the steady skilled man system in Canada.

I have had great respect for Stan’s stubborn courage in pursuit of his convictions but his present disorientation means that I can’t give him unconditional electoral support. Vote for Stan Gow but watch what he does!


This edition of the Militant Longshoremen gives only a description of the state of the union. The economy is collapsing, world trade is declining, employers are on the offensive, unions are giving up wages and conditions, gains won in 1934 and since are in jeopardy. Only a determined fight can hope to protect us at least partially from the ravages of a capitalist system in crisis. This fight must be linked to opposition to the bipartisan anti-Soviet war drive through which Reagan intends to launch World War III. The U.S. government attempts to overthrow the Sandinistas  in Nicaragua and to defeat the rebels in El Salvador, combined with the virtual blank check given the Israeli government in its naked aggression against the Palestinians in Lebanon, are examples of what this capitalist regime has in store for workers everywhere – mass murder and nuclear holocaust. We cannot seperate “union” issues from “political” issues because not only is our livelihood at stake, but our lives are in jeopardy. To put an end to the threat, we need a workers government.

The Militant Longshormanwill never surrender the responsibility of calling things as they are and trying to build an alternative  .class struggle leadership in the unions. A first step is to rebuild the Militant Caucus in Longshore. A vote for Keylor is a vote for the 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 , SBD, 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 THROUGH JOB ACTION – No dependance on 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 dawn racial and sexual discrimination on the waterfront.

5. BUILD LABOR SOLIDARITY – against government./employer strikebreaking. No more PATCO’s. Honor all picket lines. Don’t handle struck or di­verted cargo. No raiding of other unions. Organize the unorganized. Labor strikes to stop cuts in Social Security, MediCal, Medicare.

6. STOP NAZI/KLAN TERROR through union organized labor/black/Latin de­fense actions. No dependence 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 blockades of Cuba or Nicaragua. Boycott military cargo to Chile, South Africa, El Salvador and Israel.

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, Israelis, French, and Italian troops out of Lebanon.

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.