Solidarity Forever, or at Least for Now!


Understanding which side of the fence you are on

James Preston Allen, Publisher
Over the years, some have questioned my support for the local unions of the Harbor Area. In doing so, they have often questioned the very basis for the continued existence of the  unions themselves. They say that unions as a whole are antiquated and a throwback to another time and era in which the lines between management and labor were distinctly drawn. It is said that in this new age of new technologies, those distinctions doesn’t matter.  Even some inside the unions have come to believe such narratives. I do not and here’s why:

In the past month, the Pacific Maritime Association, which represent the employers on the waterfront, and the TraPac terminal have been pretending that the automation at piers 136-139, for which the Port of Los Angeles paid something north of $150 million, were working just fine. It had just a few IT glitches and a few other kinks that needed to be worked out. What hasn’t been reported anywhere else is that contract negotiations between the International Longshore Warehouse Union and the PMA have been stalled as a result of Local 13, 63, and 94 refusing to work this terminal—an impasse that affects all port operations on the entire West Coast.

“For weeks, TraPac and PMA refused to even acknowledge that the automated yard was unsafe, despite at least eleven collisions during this time period. Rather than give the union full disclosure and work with the union to make the automation safe, the employers attempted to bully the union and threatened us with lawsuits and lockouts,”  says the ILWU in an Oct. 27 released bulletin. The weeks-long closed door negotiations were never admitted to by the union, PMA, the mayor’s office and only obliquely referred to by the Port of Los .Angeles.

On Oct. 10, the ILWU locals working with Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office and the port got TraPac to agree that the automated terminal was unsafe and pressured the terminal to hire an independent third party information technology firm to audit the system.

According to the  bulletin, the third party IT audit firm issued  an independent, comprehensive 62-page forensic analysis report  on Oct. 20 that confirmed that the union was correct in its assertion that the automated yard was unsafe and mismanaged.

On Oct. 24, TraPac and the PMA agreed to all of the union’s demands, which included giving the union the complete “Operating Procedure” for automated operations. The Operating Procedure also included additional safety protocols for ILWU Mechanics, Longshoremen, Marine Clerks and Foremen. The three locals stuck together and attained everything that they were fighting for and returned to work October 29.

This is an example, not only of how labor needs to address new technologies that are somehow going to move containers more efficiently, regardless of the safety impacts. This is an example for the rest of the Los Angeles Harbor community of how through working together in solidarity we can address the big issues in dealing with the port,  the city or large corporations who wish to bully or intimidate residents.

Now I’m not saying that the ILWU is perfect. Our past reporting has shown that they too have their flaws, but at least this new leadership at this time still remembers which side of the fence they are on. At its best, the ILWU fights for the very ideals emblazoned on their wall, “An Injury to one is an injury to all.”

At its worst, it gets lost in the petty inside politics of its own hierarchy. It is something that all working people should remember when they go to the polls Nov. 4. You can only have a significant voice against powerful interests with pockets deep enough drown you in political propaganda every two years if you stick together and vote your own true interests. Don’t get stuck arguing over the stupid stuff.

My recommendations on the propositions:

Yes on 1 and 2. It only makes sense to conserve on water and to create an $8 billion reserve fund.

Yes on 45. This proposition places the power to review health care insurance rates on the hands of the elected insurance commissioner like what was passed by prop. 103 with car insurance.

Yes on 46 If bus drivers and longshoremen have to have drug testing why not health care professional? Don’t believe all the negative campaign scare mongering on the increase of medical malpractice.

Yes on 47. This common sense restructuring of criminal sentencing reverses the decades long policy that prioritizes incarceration over education and rehabilitation.

Prop. 48. I would normally vote against this expansion of casinos. However, this is a one time exception for two particular tribes that has already been approved by both the Governor and the legislature, this time I’ll vote Yes.


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