What happened this week on the West Coast with longshore workers is a testament to why unity works when employers pursue sinister agendas. Southern California union members stood up against a powerful shipping industry to protect good jobs from being outsourced, and won.
These clerical workers represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s (ILWU) Local 63 withstood incredible pressure and faced an avalanche of propaganda by corporate PR departments and K Street lobbyists who said our economy would crash unless our government intervened.
Fortunately, President Obama refused to even hint at intervention and dispatched his spokesperson to tell the parties to redouble their efforts at the bargaining table. Note to transportation workers: this is why having an even-handed President who has often said the ticket to the middle class is a strong union, matters to working people.
In the end this victory for good jobs was really about unity as all the workers on the docks stood with the clerical employees. They collectively said no to a plan to send jobs overseas and to other states. They said no to employer tactics designed to pit American workers against each other.
The clerical workers had been without a contract since June 2010, but now have a tentative agreement on a new contract with 14 employers at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which will keep the billions of dollars in revenue that comes in and out of those ports from being turned away.
Every company in the U.S. that forum shops across the globe for cheap labor should take notice. Keeping American businesses successful and keeping good jobs in America are not conflicting propositions, as evidenced by this agreement. And, as we prepare to convene our Executive Committee tomorrow here in Washington, rest assured that outsourcing, such as to foreign aircraft repair stations, is on the agenda and will remain there as these fights are seen across the entire private and public transportation industry.
ILWU President Robert McEllrath said it this way: “This victory was accomplished because of support from the entire ILWU family of 10,000 members in the harbor community.” ILWU International Vice President Ray Familathe, who helped to coordinate support for the clerical workers strike and assist them in the final negotiations, said: “Our campaign was always focused on securing good jobs and stopping the outsourcing that threatened working families in our harbor communities.”
Good jobs won today. Outsourcing lost.