Militant Longshoreman No. 3
No. #3, April 10, 1982
Gibson Case — Golden Case — S.E.O. Injunction
CAPITALIST COURTS. ATTACK UNION
Coastwise unity of the Longshore Division is threatened by Local 10’s failure to pay our share of the Gibson Case costs. Increasingly in recent years longshore and clerk locals have been sued in the courts. In cases where these lawsuits threaten the union’s contractual rights over registration, promotion, dispatch, and transfers the Longshore Caucus has authorized the Coast Conmittee to pro-rate the costs of defending these cases among all the locals on a man to man basis. Brothers may not know, for instance, that the successful defense of Local 10 and Local 34 in the Sguire Scott case were distributed coastwide. In that case Local 10 longshoremen who had -been working out of Local 34 as clerks for some time sued to be transferred as Class A clerks on the basis of “squatters rights” and without regard to seniority.
Local 10 is the only local in the longshore division that, at the present time, is refusing to pay its share of the Gibson Case settlement. This refusal is based upon actions at two membership meetings where it was argued that Local 10 should not help defend any local charged with racial discrimination. Since then the Executive Board has had two lengthy discussions on the Gibson Case, but the facts that came out there haven’t been fully reported to the membership.
FACTS ON THE GIBSON CASE
Because of the extreme and increasing danger of the capitalist courts intervention into internal longshore union affairs, this article will give a few of the background facts on the Gibson Case.
1967: Gibson filed E.E.O.C. complaint against Local 40, Portland Ship Clerk’s Local — four black casuals originally involved — court later added ten more blacks to complaint — Gibson charged Local 40 with racial discrimination against him and against other blacks in dispatch as casual clerks — none had worked as casual clerks prior to 1966, none had applied for Class B Clerk registration.
The case went to District Federal Court under Title Seven of the Civil Rights Act — District Court rejected the complaint — Case appealed by Gibson and other plaintiffs to 9th Circuit Court of Appeals — The International was also sued, along with PMA — the International tried to withdraw as a defendant, but the Court ruled that the International ILWU could be sued as a defendant because of Coast Committee contractual control of dispatch and registration.
BRIDGES REFUSES GIBSON CASE SETTLEMENT
Early on there was an attempt to settle the case out of court with registration of the plaintiffs, but Brother Bridges refused and joined Local 40 in defending the case in court.
The Federal Appeals Court finally reversed the lower court and found Local 40, (and the International), guilty of racial discrimination in 1967. In 1981, the International, PMA, and Local 40 settled the case out of court to the tune of several hundred-thousand dollars. They figured that appeal and further litigation might run up the final cost of settlement to two or three million dollars
In 1967 there was one black class A clerk in Local 40. During the fourteen years of the court suit Local 40 registered a number of black clerks, mostly through transfers from longshore.
OTHER LOCALS AGREE TO SHARE COSTS OF GIBSON CASE
In June, 1981, all locals were billed for costs of settling the Gibson Case. The July Longshore Caucus did not reverse or reject this pro-rata billing. Local 13, Wilmington, delayed paying their share until they got reassurance-that their cost of defending the union in several local cases would also be pro-rated coast-wide. They have now agreed to pay their share of the Gibson Case.
GOLDEN CASE – COURT OVERRULES CONTRACT IN LOS ANGELES
The anti-union lawsuit which most clearly shows the extreme danger to the union is the Golden Case, which was just settled in Los Angeles. In that lawsuit a number of women, most of whom had never worked on the waterfront, went into court to block the transfer of 108 longshoremen to the clerks local. They were joined by a group of casual clerks who wanted also to block the transfers and get themselves registered on a new Clerk B list.
The settlement put the Federal District Court in permanent control of all registration, transfer, promotion, and dispatch of clerks in Los Angeles. In addition; the court required the registration of,a number of women and casual clerks to longshore B list. The court further ordered that all future longshore and clerk registration contain 25 to 30% women.
COURT ORDERS CLERK B LIST IN LOS ANGELES
A clerk B list will be set up in Los Angeles containing a certain number of women and casual clerks. Finally all future transfers from longshore to clerk after the present 108 men will have to be mostly women.
It is ironic that the court gained control over longshore registration in Los Angeles over sex discrimination charges, since Local 13 had probably the best record on the coast for bringing women into the work force. About 50 women are now registered and working as longshoremen in Los Angeles.
HOW CAN WE DEFEND OUR UNION AGAINST THE CAPITALIST COURTS ?
If any Local 10 brother had any illusions left that the courts were truly neutral where unions are concerned, these illusions should have finally ended when the Federal Court came down with an injunction prohibiting any action by Local 10 to protect hiring hall tractor and lift jobs against PMA’s S.E.O. men. Since anything in print could be used by the court against Local 10, the MILITANT LONGSHOREMAN is limited in what kind of union defense we can suggest.
When any union local’s contractual rights over registration, promotion, transfer, or dispatch are threatened by court action every local must see this as an attack on our union and share in the costs of legal defense. But let’s not have any illusions; the velvet glove has come off the iron hand and the courts will increasingly be used by the capitalist state to weaken and restrict union action in defense of our jobs.
Trade unions were built and defended not by relying solely on smart lawyers, (they have their use), but by working class unity in action.
My first reaction to the sharing by Local 10 of costs incurred in the Gibson Case was: hell no, I won’t pay! Having suffered the chilling, oppressive, and humiliating effects of racism personally, my reaction was predictable. I have lost job opportunities myself, exactly for what Local 40 was accused of doing — racial discrimination. We in Local 10 know that too few blacks have been selected As walking bosses, we are presently seeking to get more black representation. I reasoned: why should I pay for the privilege of Local 40 having discriminated against blacks?
I soon, however, began to expand my thinking into holistic rather than personalistic areas. The Williams case where Local 10 B men were fired was I suppose, of no interest to Local 40, but they had to share in our lawsuit. The hard, practical, reality is that Local 10 cannot afford to become isolated from the coast-wide concept of unity with other locals. We will need their help and they will need ours.
All ILWU Locals are reeling from the effects of automation, all suffer increasingly less work opportunities. The Steady Man system is a cancer that has the potential to destroy us all. We cannot afford the luxury of hating formerly all white Local 40 for their past practices pre-1967. We don’t have to love them, but we must work together, because our jobs, our very livelihoods are much more important to us in the long run, than getting even for past discriminatory practices. The black men who sued Local 40 are now A men and have been for many years. Local 8, their longshore component in Portland, dealt with their racial problems by registering blacks in 1964, thus avoiding lawsuits.
The above comments on both the Golden and Gibson cases by Brother Keylor clearly show the problems, (especially the Golden Case), which can beset a Local, when it is invaded by the Courts. The Courts are into almost all aspects of Local 13’s dispatch and hiring practices – it could happen to us. I strongly recommend that the members of Local 10 pursue a course that will strengthen the bonds between Local 40 and Local 10 and all other ILWU locals. Help them, so that they can help us — to fight the bosses and courts. A final comment: failure to abide by the constitution, which provides for pro-rata sharing of lawsuits Coast-wide, could result in Local 10 being placed into monitorship or in being excluded from future caucuses. The result would be more loss of control and isolation from other locals.