Militant Longshoreman No. 22

Militant Longshoreman

No. 22,  July 25, 1987


After much rhetoric about “no concessionary bargaining” Herman and Rubio engineered two provisions in the proposed longshore contract that will disastrously weaken and divide the union. One of these “sleepers” is hidden in the supplemental memorandum of under­standing-safety and the other is contained in the wages section.

PMA is accomplishing two goals dear to their heart in section B of the proposed Safety Rules. Section B(1) gives PMA the right to suspend and then move rapidly toward de-registering any longshoremen found guilty of not following “reasonable verbal instructions.` This provision has nothing to do with safety; it’s simply a way that superintendants  can demand immediate absolute obedience, strike fear in every longshoreman, and easily get rid of anyone who doesn’t show the right ass-kissing attitude. During the unions bitter struggles of the 30s’ longshoremen achieved a high degree of union to protect workers from employment victimization. The hiring hall, which equalized job opportunity protected a man’s income and job action protected him from abuse, discrimination, and speed-up.  In  1960 Bridges’ one year “Performance and Conformance” contract under­mined the job action weapon. Then the 1966 9.43 steady equipment operators provision of the contract placed a large chunk of longshoremen in a much more vulnerable position.

Even so, the union has been able to pretty well protect longshoremen up to now. B(1) is an historic surrender to the employer. Any longshoreman who is not fast enough in jumping to obey a superintendant who orders men to work in violation of the contract will rapidly be programmed toward deregistration. B(2) will enable any superintendant whose speedup, incompetence, or faulty equipment results in an injury or damage to cargo to place the blame on a longshoreman for “intentionally” or “knowingly” causing the accident. The PMA companies have been trying to shift the blame for their high accident rate and insurance costs upon the individual longshoremen. For some time now in San Francisco any longshoreman involved in an accident has been fired and cited. Now PMA will have the power to get rid of the man.

PMA’s hypocrisy about accidents is shown by their consistent resistance to longshoremen trying to use the Health & Safety provisions of the contract; hard-timing and firing men who stop work on safety beefs. In the past when longshoremen had job control they were able to collectively maintain safer working conditions. In recent years this under­mining of union power has been a large contributing factor in the high accident rate.

There are no contract penalties for incompetent, drunk, or speed-up happy superintendants whose orders cause accidents and injuries. The whole burden is hypocritically shifted upon our shoulders. For over 50 years the employers have nutured a sick hatred and jealously of the pride and independence of longshoremen; now they will be able to “get even.”


Unions have resisted 2 tier wage rates because they are highly divisive and unfair. If this contract passes, within a few years union members (A men) will be working side by side doing the same work for different wage scales. The Class B system with less work opportunity led to resentment and divisiveness. Long after men got Class A registration the divisions often persisted. Now we’ll have 6 separate and distinct wage rates for the same work.How’s that for undermining brotherhood and unity in the face of employers?


The editor of this newsletter was surprised at the extent of the give-aways in this contract. The increase in export shipping (resulting from the decline in the U.S. dollar) less PGP costs, and a decline in the work force made it unlikely that PMA would seek confrontation leading to a strike even-in the face of the minimal gains proposed by the International officers. So what happened? Herman and Rubio were running so scared that they sent all kinds of signals to the PMA that the door was open to a union weakening contract. The International sent orders down to the locals during negotiations to stop all job actions and minimize beefs. Instead of setting July 1st as a no-contract no‑work target date they announced ahead of time that they would order work past the July 1st contract termination ~ date.

Probably the most glaring indication of weakness was the criminal way in which the IBU strike against Crowley was sabotaged. Any picketing or actions against Crowley which even slightly inconvenienced the PMA companies were stopped. Just one example: an arbitration on picket line language in Los Angeles which appeared to have a good chance of upholding the right of longshoremen and clerks to stop work behind IBU picket lines and to force ships agents to hire non-Crowley bunkering barges has been repeatedly postponed and delayed. Herman and Rubio have strangled the IBU from con­tinuing their initially successful picketing in Los Angeles last month — By the way there isno injunction in L.A. against IBU picketing Crowley’s very profitable bunker­ing operations.

When the Crowley cargo-carrying barge Molokai which we stopped in Oakland and Redwood City was loaded by scab longshoremen at Seaways in Seattle it then went to Hawaii and was picketed by the IBU. Teamsters observed the IBU-ILWU pickets but longshoremen went thru the picket lines and unloaded the barge!

Part of the reason this contract may pass is that longshoremen and clerks are justifi­ably fearful of going into a strike with the weak and treacherous Herman/Rubio leader­ship. The only chance we have of winning even a defensive contract battle is to take control of the strike out of the hands of the International. We need to elect broad rank-and-file strike committees in every port to take complete control of the strike, shut it down solid and hurt PMA economically. That’s why the 1934 and 1948 strikes were successful–the rank-and-file were in control.