A sad day for ILWU
volume 35
issue 5
October 2014

In August, five different locals of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) approved a heart-wrenching contract. Key was the gutting of its hiring hall — a source of union power on the docks that members won in bloody strikes long ago.

ILWU’s latest low is the bitter legacy of concessions that its International officers forced on ILWU Local 21 two years ago. Leaders and members of Local 21 in Longview, Wash. fought a heroic battle to stop takeaways demanded by grain giant EGT. Other locals rushed to their aid. And the Occupy Movement, then at its zenith, organized solidarity actions. But the International ordered Local 21 to “stand down” and redbaited Occupy as outside agitators. Effectively, members’ initiative and community solidarity was quashed. Fast forward to 2014: the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Assoc. pointed to EGT’s contract and demanded the same concessions. Secret negotiations, and a reliance on lawyers sealed the ILWU’s deal.

ILWU’s story isn’t unique. The labor movement is full of such betrayals these days. But in this case, officials sold out the heritage of one of the most militant unions in the U.S. It doesn’t bode well for ILWU negotiations now underway with the Pacific Maritime Association. And it’s a good reason for members to jettison their business unionism officers in favor of leaders who will revive the ILWU’s much respected internationalism, fighting spirit, and democratic traditions.

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