Militant Longshoreman No 9

Militant Longshoreman

No #9   July 21, 1984



This contract is worse than the editor expected. I did expect that a Negotiating Committee dominated by the International officers and without any strike demands would get no real improvements in job security, safety, or grievance procedure. But I was unpleasantly surprised that Herman’s tactic of divide and conquer (exemplified by separate steady men contracts in the three major locals) while piecing off different sections of the Division with minor concessions, would be even more successful this time around. The Northwest and Southern California got their stop gap concessions and San Francisco is brutally victimized,


The April Caucus defeated by one vote Local 10’s demand for a shorter work shift at no loss in pay to create jobs. The resolutions passed for manning on container operations and no extended shifts got strictly nowhere during negotiations. The Northwest and Southern California zones got expanded voluntary paid travel rights, but Local 10 is still locked into a zone with only two small river ports to which we can travel. We can expect those ports which are outside our zone and have extra work to tighten up and further limit the number of San Francisco longshoremen who can travel there as jointly recognized visitors.


So where does that leave us? Depending almost entirely on PGP, the crumbling “cornerstone” of job security. Local 10’s demand for a “make whole” on the PGP shortfall from the last contract and our demand to eliminate Section 20.7, “PGP Abuse”, were rejected by the April Caucus. The demands passed by the Caucus for a weekly 40 hour PGP were dropped. Also to bite the dust in negotiations was the demand that men not involved directly in a contract beef were not to be dinged for a weeks PGP.

Instead, what we got was a 38 hour PGP with restrictive rules tailored to punish Local 10. All men will have to maintain 50-7, of the average port hours in order to keep from being coded out of PGP. Men on slow-moving boards will be forced to haunt the hall seven days a week, day and night, in a desperate attempt to keep their hours up. Older and partially disabled men will have to take a dispatch to steel in the hold and lashing to keep up their availability (or to make a living income if “coded out” of PGP). If a Class B longshoreman or a casual takes a lashing or steel job every A man on the Dock or Hold Board who isn’t squared off and doesn’t take those jobs will lose his PGP for the week. Several hundred men will be forced out of the industry by these rules. Especially hard hit will be men on the Dock Preference Board who have to make 50% of Port hours to stay on PGP.

Every longshoreman will be desperately competing with every other man for jobs, We can end up fighting each other instead of PMA.


The new sections 10.2131 through 20.21313 will lead to men snitching on each others “outside income” and place the union in the position of acting as cops for PMA witchhunting. Our officers will be so preoccupied with hearings and appeals from this section that they won’t be able to get out onto the job.


None of the Coast Caucus’ Health and Safety demands were negotiated. Instead, a committee with no power will meet with FMA after the contract is signed to update the safety code. PMA’s push to get the ships out can only result in even more crippling accidents especially on steel and container operations .


The April Coast Caucus ducked the problems represented by a “grievance procedure” that doesn’t allow longshoremen to protect their conditions. Unlike previous Caucuses, this one didn’t even formulate a demand to allow Longshoremen to stop work when PMA superintendents order men to work in clear violation of the contract.

That same Caucus overwhelmingly defeated delegate Keylor’s amendment to eliminate arbitrators and arbitration completely from the contract. Instead the Caucus passed two resolutions calling for termination of an arbitrator’s term of office at the end of each contract. Even this timid and useless demand was dropped during negotiations.

The only addition to the grievance machinery, new section 17.57, can be used against the union forcing us to strictly abide by Sutliff’s rulings while we wait out the interminable process of appealing to the Coast Committee.


Caucus demands to eliminate extended shifts except for emergencies were likewise dropped. Also disappeared from this contract package was the demand to tighten up on PMA’s shift starting time.

What this Negotiationg, Committee did was to make further concessions to PMA to allow a Container Freight Station to operate from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM.


PMA was given a further concession on hours allowing them to stagger the CFS work week over any consecutive five day period and to stagger the lunch hour.

In what is a vain attempt to compete with non-union off-dock CFS operations the remaining job classifications will be wiped out, so that a super CFS utility man will throw cargo, do his own clerking, and drive equipment. This may even lead to a net loss of jobs for Locals 10 and 34

Section 10 of the proposed CFS agreement eliminating the IBT swamper/lumper could push us into a bitter jurisdictional war with the Teamsters. A fight with the Teamsters is the last thing we need right now; the April Caucus endorsed a Coast Committee resolution to set up machinery for more and closer cooperation with the Teamsters.


The Section entitled Steady Skilled Men is probably the most deceptive and confusing section of the agreement. Local 13 (Los Angeles) got increased crane and tractor training. L.A. also got some concessions on their equalization formula between Crane Supplement and Crane Board men.

What did Local 10 get? No training. All equalization language deleted from the contract. SEO Board in the hall eliminated; all 9.43 men back to their individual employer. PMA companies will be able to tighten up control over “their” steady skilled men.

The new contract language which is supposed to return tractors and lifts over five tons to the hall is both confusing and deceptive. Attempts to get clear explanations from the Negotiating Committee were met with evasions :nnd bombastic oratory,

Here is how the editor interprets this contract section, (Remember: Sutliff will be making the contract interpretations!)

A) Steady Skilled Men can operate tractors, lifts, payloaders, and bulldozers to fill out their eight hour guarantees.

B) 9.43 men can drive lifts on the ship on all types of cargo including steel.

C) 9.43 men can operate lifts on the dock on Ro-Ro and “container operations”. This probably means 9.43 on lifts moving containers where the ship has mixed break bulk/container cargo.

Since each PMA member company won’t be able to use another company’s steady skilled men (no SEO Board in the hall), each company will have an incentive to hire back more 9.43 men and to chisel wherever they can in using steady men in place of hall men.

The April Caucus voted down Keylor’s motion to make the demand for elimination of all steady skilled men provisions from the contract a strike issue.

The Negotiating Committee was given a demand requiring that all crane-rated equipment mounted on a floating vessel be dispatched from the hall. Since this demand was dropped the door remains wide open for more 9.43 men operating back-hoes, whirleys, swinging booms, and any ships hoisting gear rated at 40 tons.


Contrary to the Coast Committee recommendation (and Caucus action) nothing was done to even begin to consolidate the different levels of pension benefits for men already retired. In fact, beefing up the maximum years of service credit to 33 years for future retirees only increases the spread in pensions between men who retired earlier and men who will retire in the future.

For the first time part of pension increases (for retirees prior to July 1, 1984) will not have to be fully funded by PMA –  as ERISA requires – but will be funded like welfare, from contract to contract, a move which if extended into the future will make our pensions less secure.


The unions “negotiating posture” sent a signal of weakness to PMA. Not one key demand was designated a strike issue. The leadership did not prepare the rank-and-file for a strike. The Negotiating Committee was not armed with a strike vote. Instead, president Herman spread scare tactics as to how weak we are and how bad the anti-labor climate is under Reagan.

PMA was never told “July 1 – no contract – no work”. The Negotiating Committee was top heavy with five International officers. The four large locals had only one member each on the Negotiating Committee.

The shipping lines have been making money and were not prepared for a real solid strike. PMA got off easy by offering money to a steadily diminishing work force.


Jimmy Herman has been throwing out hints that we might have to make increased concessions to some of our employers to help them compete with non-union operations like Seaways. That’s probably why in the face of an agressive attack by Crowley on the ILA, Masters Mates and Pilots, and the Inland Boatmen – ILWU the International pushed concession bargaining between IBU and Crowley, and was largely responsible for the obscene spectacle of longshoremen going through the IBU tankerman’s picket lines at the army base on June 21st.



It’s remotely possible that if the contract is turned down that a few concessions could be wrung from PMA simply by reopening negotiations. But it would be dishonest not to tell the membership that only a determination to fight accompanied by preparations for a brawl can get us even a part of what we need.

It looks as if Herman has manipulated the leadership of other sections of the Longshore Division to make Local 10 the scapegoat. Local 10’s Caucus delegation voted 7-4 against the contract. This is the largest Caucus delegate no vote since the ’71 strike. A serious and determined Local leadership would send rank-and-file delegates all over the coast immediately in an attempt to win at least 41% against the contract in the voting which takes place July 21-27. The delegates would talk directly to longshoremen and clerks appealing to them for a common fight for jobs through manning and a shorter work shift. Defeating the contract on the first round would give us breathing space to reorganize for a real fight.

The hour is late. In fact when the Executive Board discussed the contract on June 28 and the discussion finally got around to what to do, the meeting dissolved before a vote was taken on the proposal to send people coastwise. This should have been done much earlier, even before the April Caucus, and at the latest after we learned what was in the contract.

It’s better to fight for what you want and need — and maybe not get it, than to ask for what you don’t want — and get that (Loosely paraphrasing Eugene Debs).