[Newly elected President Marina Secchitano marked the 100th
anniversary of the Inlandboatmans Union with a pledge to continue its
heritage of solidarity, organizing and resistance to attacks by
anti-union companies or politicians.] [https://portside.org/] 

 PORTSIDE LABOR 

 IBU MEMBERS CELEBRATE A CENTURY OF PROGRESSIVE MARITIME UNIONISM  
[https://portside.org/2019-01-03/ibu-members-celebrate-century-progressive-maritime-unionism]


 

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 _ Newly elected President Marina Secchitano marked the 100th
anniversary of the Inlandboatman's Union with a pledge to continue its
heritage of solidarity, organizing and resistance to attacks by
anti-union companies or politicians. _ 

 From left to right: ILWU International Vice President (Hawaii),
Wesley Furtado, ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris, IBU
Secretary- Treasurer Terri Mast, ILWU International President Willie
Adams, ILWU International Vice President (Mainland) , 

 

The Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU) – one of the nation’s largest
inland maritime unions and the ILWU’s Marine Division – celebrated
their 100th anniversary and 24th Convention in Seattle on November
11-15.

The IBU’s history, accomplishments and struggles were highlighted at
a Centennial Anniversary evening gala held inside Seattle’s
spectacular Museum of Flight. Over 250 union members and industry
officials mingled among the exhibits of historic and modern aircraft.
The IBU’s new President, Marina Secchitano, was introduced by the
evening’s Master of Ceremonies, IBU Secretary/Treasurer Terri Mast.

Secchitano recognized many leaders in the room, including all four of
the ILWU’s International Officers: President Willie Adams, Vice
President (Mainland) Bobby Olvera, Jr., Vice President (Hawaii) Wesley
Furtado and Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris. Other union leaders
introduced included ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton, former IBU
Presidents Alan Cote and Don Liddle, along with former IBU Secretary-
Treasurer Larry Miner. President Don Marcus of the Masters, Mates &
Pilots Union was thanked along with Paul Garrett, Assistant Secretary
of the Maritime Union of Australia’s Sydney Branch. Many IBU
employer representatives attended, including Washington State
Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar, President Tom Escher from
San Francisco’s Red & White Fleet, Bruce Reed from Tidewater on the
Columbia River, Rob Reller of Manson Construction, and Black Ball
Ferry CFO David Booth.

The official speeches were brief, including the ILWU’s newly-elected
International President Willie Adams, who thanked the IBU for their
1980 decision to affiliate with the ILWU, and for the many
contributions made by the IBU before and since. The City of Seattle
prepared an official proclamation that was presented by Mayor Jenny
Durkin’s office, honoring the IBU’s many accomplishments. Los
Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti sent his congratulations via twitter.
Video testimonials from union advocates appeared on giant screens
inside the museum, including U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of
Massachusetts, a powerful union advocate and potential U.S.
Presidential candidate who congratulated Secchitano for being elected
President of the IBU. “This is the year of the woman, and your new
leadership role is noteworthy and important.” Also joining via video
was Washington State Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Seattle who sent
her congratulations and best wishes to officers and members. The
evening concluded with a video presentation highlighting the IBU’s
hundred-year history and century of struggle for workers’ rights.
The program concluded with a champagne toast – to another hundred
years of militant, member-focused unionism.

LAUNCHED IN DANGEROUS TIMES

The courageous group of Bay Area ferry workers who founded the IBU’s
predecessor in 1918, the Ferryboatmen’s Union of California, did so
in difficult and dangerous times. Unions and strikes were illegal.
Seventeen states passed “criminal syndicalism” laws that allowed
thousands of union members to be imprisoned and brutalized, including
California, Oregon and Washington. Conditions got worse for unions
when America entered the First World War on a wave of nationalism
promoted by big business and politicians who used their warped sense
of “patriotism” to attack union organizers as traitors and
“enemies of the people.” Leaders of the Industrial Workers of the
World (IWW) who helped workers in West Coast ports, lumber camps,
factories and fields, were among those hunted down, jailed, beaten,
tortured and murdered. Congress passed the unconstitutional Sedition
Act in 1918, making it a crime to criticize or hold opinions against
the war. Other earthshaking events during 1917-1918 included the
Russian Revolution and mobilizations by women for the right to vote.
These factors caused deep divisions within labor unions, as radicals
were purged, jailed and killed – while many establishment unions
turned their backs on civil liberties and some joined racist campaigns
against “dangerous alien immigrants.” When the war ended in
November of 1918, much of Europe was destroyed, 16 million were dead
and another 75 million would soon die in the global flu pandemic. Most
militant labor unions were exterminated or weakened – but the IBU
managed to survive and grow in these difficult conditions.

EARLY FOCUS ON FERRY WORKERS

The IBU’s early growth was possible because so many ferries were
being used to transport cargo, railroad cars and people around booming
cities and ports on the West Coast.

SURVIVING BY ORGANIZING

The union’s initial boom lasted little more than a decade. New
bridges built during the mid-1930’s caused many ferries to be idled.
The modern bridges were needed to accommodate an explosion of cars and
trucks. In an ironic twist, many of the new bridges were funded by
President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, which created millions of
desperately-needed construction jobs across the country, but also
caused thousands of ferry workers to lose their work. Roosevelt’s
support for workers and unions was also enormously helpful when the
union expanded beyond the Bay Area to help workers organize in the
Pacific Northwest, where port cities in Washington. Oregon and Alaska
had grown quickly from timber and mining. The union also moved to help
workers organize in Southern California, especially San Pedro and San
Diego.

BREAKING WITH OLD LIMITATIONS

The IBU’s dramatic growth was also possible because they expanded
beyond their previous “jurisdiction,” that limited them to only
help ferry workers. This narrow perspective was soon abandoned in
favor of helping workers on tugs, barges and other vessels. Workers at
fish canneries and processing plants joined in 1985, and most
recently, environmental response workers. This new approach to
jurisdiction was called “industrial unionism” and it gave the
union a new name: the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific.

SEARCH FOR A DEMOCRATIC PARTNER

Over the years, the IBU has affiliated with different unions and
federations, always searching for a democratic partner. Early on, they
affiliated with the International Seaman’s Union (ISU) that was part
of the American Federation of Labor. When the industrial union
movement rose in the 1930’s, the IBU aligned with the Congress of
Industrial Unions (CIO), being the first west coast union to join that
rebel group – doing so a few months before the ILWU. During the next
decade they tried to avoid bitter conflicts between ILWU President
Harry Bridges and Sailors Union of the Pacific President Harry
Lundeberg. In 1947 the IBU joined the Seafarers’ International Union
(SIU), but left in 1979 over objections to what were seen as
undemocratic and unethical practices. The following year saw a bitter
strike by Washington State ferry workers with leaders Don Liddle and
Larry Miner jailed for defying a court injunction. That’s when ILWU
locals shut down the Puget Sound in solidarity. The move that led to a
settlement for ferry workers and affiliation with the ILWU.

MEMBERSHIP TRENDS

IBU membership peaked at 40,000 before WWII. As the number of ferries
continued to dwindle and anti-union laws took their toll, the
membership levelled to 4,000 where it remains today. But the union
retains the same democratic, member-focused, progressive spirit from a
century ago. And ferry service is now making a comeback, with
communities in Alaska, Washington and California recognizing the
critical role that public ferries play in regional transportation
plans.

24TH CONVENTION OPENS

On Monday morning, November 12, all the history and current challenges
came into sharp focus as the IBU’s 24th Convention was called to
order at the Edgewater Hotel, overlooking Elliott Bay on the Puget
Sound. The convention was chaired by President Marina Secchitano.
Longtime IBU Secretary-Treasurer Terri Mast announced that 45
delegates and 20 special guests were present. The guests included ILWU
Canada President Rob Ashton who was accompanied by Local 400
Secretary-Treasurer Jason Woods and Liam Lumsden, a Young Worker and
Local 400 Board member. Also attending was Sydney Branch Presiding
Officer Paul Garrett, who came with Rob Paterson, Glan Munright, Trent
Miller and Liam Burke, all from the Maritime Union of Australia.

SPIRITUAL MESSAGE FOR THE UNION

Deacon Jose Deleon from the Seattle Seafarers Ministry offered a
prayer and reflection on the IBU’s longstanding commitment to
promoting justice and equality. Deleon said he was grateful for the
opportunity to work so closely with the IBU and the ILWU over many
years, helping crew members from the Philippines, China and other
nations. These seafarers sometimes arrive to the West Coast on vessels
with substandard working conditions. Deleon thanked IBU member Jeff
Engels for coordinating work of the International Transport Workers
Federation (ITF) on the West Coast with a talented team that includes
Inspectors Peter Lahay in Canada, Stefan Mueller-Dombois in LA and
Martin Larson in Oregon. Deleon praised the IFT inspectors for helping
seafarers win many struggles for dignity, respect and better pay.

JOYFUL UNION NOISE

Next up was Seattle’s Labor Chorus, which came to celebrate the
100th Anniversary and inspire convention delegates to prepare for the
hard work ahead. The Chorus performs frequently at picket lines,
rallies and community events, with roots that include IBU members
Scott Seramur, who was a founding member, and his wife Susan Moser,
who performed at the convention. The Chorus started 21 years ago at
the Northwest Folklife Festival where legendary union advocate and
folksinger Pete Seeger promised to return and sing with the fledgling
group if they became established. They did, and Seeger keep his
promise.

IBU PRESIDENT SECCHITANO

IBU President Marina Secchitano was elected last December to become
the union’s first female President. She joined longtime
Secretary-Treasurer Terri Mast, making the IBU one of the few unions
to be led by women leaders. Secchitano offered many thoughts about
what could be accomplished at the convention and a vision for what
lies ahead in the coming years.

NON-UNION TUG THREAT

One challenge facing the IBU and covered by Secchitano was plainly
visible just outside the meeting room’s large windows where a
growing number of non-union tugs and barges now operate along much of
the West Coast and Hawaii.

BIG OIL HURTS UNION MEMBERS

Secchitano highlighted the growing non-union environment by citing the
recent change at the Port of Valdez, Alaska. Big oil companies in
Valdez decided to replace their longtime union contractor, Crowley,
with a large anti-union corporation from the Gulf of Mexico, called
Edison Chouest. The new contractor has a history of mishaps, but still
won a ten-year contract to provide tug assist and emergency response
for tankers carrying North Slope crude through Prince William Sound,
where a catastrophic spill in 1989 dumped 11 million gallons of oil
into pristine waters and fouled 1300 miles of shoreline. “I recently
visited those Crowley workers and families up in Valdez during the
final days of their contract, and it was heartbreaking,” said
Secchitano, explaining that the new contractor brought their own
non-union workforce from the South instead of rehiring Crowley workers
that included many Native Alaskans. She said the IBU has been trying
to help the displaced workers find jobs at other union companies.
Secchitano added that many small businesses in Valdez are now
suffering because Edison Chouest refuses to “buy local” and
support the community like Crowley did for decades.

FERRY WORKERS GET ORGANIZED

Secchitano also commented on the challenges facing thousands of public
ferry workers who were recently hit by the anti-union Janus decision,
handed-down last year by the US Supreme Court. The Janus attack was
financed by corporations who hoped the Supreme Court ruling would
destroy unions by encouraging members to quit paying dues. IBU ferry
workers in Alaska, Washington and California responded by educating
their co-workers about the scheme through thousands of conversations.
This approach yielded excellent results, with only a handful refusing
to pay their share of union dues. “The member-to-member
conversations you had with your co-workers made the difference and
helped us stay strong,” said Secchitano. “We’ve still got more
work to do in some areas, but we’re on the right track with this
approach.”

CHEAP OIL HURTS FERRY WORKERS

Secchitano described a special problem facing ferry workers in Alaska
that has implications for all union members. Some Alaska politicians
are trying to privatize the state’s public ferry system in order to
break public unions and convert a valuable public asset into a
private, profit-making investment for Wall Street. She said the threat
has become more serious because falling crude oil prices are depleting
Alaska’s state revenue that depends on oil taxes. She explained that
declining oil prices and resulting budget shortfalls have many
legislators demanding big budget cuts from public employees in Alaska,
including ferry workers. Secchitano promised to help IBU members in
Alaska fight back. She also praised efforts by Acting (Jan-May, 2018)
Regional Director Darryl Tseu, who is sharing the valuable experience
and relationships he has with many Alaska legislators.

NON-UNION ON OUR DOORSTEP

During a break in the session, IBU Puget Sound Business Agent Gail
McCormick explained that his region’s largest tug companies, Foss
and Crowley, “have the largest and most powerful tractor tug fleets
with the best-skilled crews, so pilots tend to favor them, but the
non-union and sub-standard operators are nipping around the edges and
showing up more often,” he said, pointing across Elliott Bay where a
non-union tug was visible in the distance.

Three of the biggest non-union tug and barge companies are Vane
Brothers from Maryland, Edison Chouest from Louisiana and the Kirby
Corporation from Texas. All three also have modern fleets, and are
scouting for new work, in part, because low oil prices have forced
companies to close down expensive wells in the Gulf of Mexico – and
cancel support vessel contracts there.

Secchitano explained how she’s seen the growing non-union threat
take shape on the West Coast. “When I visited Hawaii recently, I saw
a big Kirby tug next to a Foss union vessel. Then back home I saw a
Kirby tug in San Francisco Bay, which we hadn’t seen before, and I
learned that it was heading up here to the Puget Sound, so we can see
these guys are getting more serious about moving out west,” she
said.

Secchitano ended with some important updates, the first of which
involved the IBU pension which had an unfunded liability for many
years but is now on a recovery plan that will restore the fund’s
health over the next 11 years.

She also provided the latest good news about expanded ferry services
in San Francisco Bay, where state and federal funding has supported a
14-vessel fleet serving four routes that carry 2.7 million passengers
annually – with plans to reach 5 times that number in 2035 using 44
vessels. The new passenger ferries are the cleanest 400 passenger
vessels in the world and can reach over 30 mph.

Secchitano ended by noting the untimely passing of Veronica Sanchez, a
skilled legislative advocate who helped Bay Area maritime workers wage
many campaigns for good jobs and better working conditions. She said
Sanchez was a valuable ally of the IBU and other unions. “Veronica
will be remembered for fighting many good fights with us, and we will
miss her deeply.”

GREETINGS FROM CANADA

ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton was invited to the podium where he
congratulated IBU members for their century of progressive unionism.
Ashton said he was representing 6000 ILWU Canada members, plus another
7000 affiliated members. He urged the IBU to continue their
progressive tradition, warning that employers are constantly looking
for ways to create division and doubt between workers. He cited the
importance of welcoming everyone into the union, regardless of their
gender orientation. “What matters is that we all bleed just like the
next worker, regardless of how we look or how we choose to live.”

REMARKS FROM PRESIDENT ADAMS

Newly-elected ILWU International President Willie Adams was the next
speaker who began by recognizing the team of officers who accompanied
him to attend the IBU Convention: Vice President for Mainland Bobby
Olvera, Jr.; Vice President for Hawaii Wesley Furtado and
Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris. “I believe that four heads are better
than one,” he said. “All of us have come here to listen to you and
offer our support.”

He also praised the ILWU tradition of operating in the open and
encouraging members to ask questions – especially the questioning
elected union officials. “We can’t be afraid to have members
criticize and challenge their elected officers,” he said. Adams said
the same principle applies to welcoming new and younger voices.
“I’m excited and energized by what young people are doing in this
union. We need to involve them, include them and listen to them.”

Adams said he was humbled by the fact that the IBU was founded in
1918, sixteen years ahead of the ILWU. “The IBU’s been around
longer than the ILWU, which means we can learn from your history and
experience.”

He also thanked President Secchitano for “having the courage to step
up, lean in and stick her neck out to run for President. I look
forward to working with you and your team,” said Adams.

He wrapped-up by sharing his concerns about the political challenges
facing IBU and ILWU members, emphasizing the need to prepare now for a
voice in the 2020 election. Adams noted the positive election results
in November, with a record number of more union-friendly candidates
who will control the U.S. House of Representatives. But he also
reminded everyone that the U.S. Senate remains controlled by an
antiunion majority – and added that Alaska’s new governor favors
big business over workers and unions. “Those workers and others like
them depend on us to help them organize and speak out,” Adams
concluded.

SPECIAL GUEST: MM&P PRESIDENT

Don Marcus, President of the Masters, Mates and Pilots Union, opened
by joking about the challenge of following Willie Adams to the podium.
Marcus said the IBU, ILWU and the MM&P share a common bond; they are
among the larger group of Maritime Unions who formed the Maritime
Labor Alliance six years ago. He said the group plays an important
role in building unity.

“We squabble today at our own risk. Non-union operators are no
longer unchallenged and many are operating in former union
strongholds. They provide their workers with half-decent pay and
working conditions, but poor benefits and no rights on the job. I’ve
followed several of your IBU organizing efforts that were thwarted by
bad labor laws. Let’s remember that it took twenty years for union
organizing campaigns to prevail on the Columbia River.”

Marcus agreed that the Janus Supreme Court decision has had a
surprisingly positive effect so far, with most workers choosing to
remain dues-paying union members. “About ten years ago, we had 40
percent of federal employees participating in our union – and today
we have 90 percent. In our case, it happened because of one woman who
took the effort to talk with her co-workers about supporting the
union.”

Marcus said unions need to use a similar approach in the future. “We
have to be part of the dialogue on automation, now that autonomous
vessels are being designed and tested. We also have to keep
challenging the hysteria raised against the Jones Act –
misinformation being spread to otherwise progressive legislators,
through propaganda efforts at the Cato Institute and Heritage
Foundation, where they hate the Jones Act because it provides good
wages and working conditions for union maritime workers.”

He concluded on a hopeful note: “the IBU and MM&P have a good record
of working together and we need to continue that work, like we’re
doing to help folks at the Washington State Ferries, and the new
federally-funded ferries in San Francisco Bay, and similar projects up
and down the West Coast.”

CONVENTION WORK BEGINS

After the opening speakers and other formalities were finished on the
first morning, convention delegates tackled an ambitious work plan
that continued until 9 pm. An equally rigorous schedule was set for
the next three days, with delegates divided into two groups: A
“Passenger Industry Caucus” and a “Freight, Towing &
Environmental Caucus.” Delegates in the Passenger Industry Caucus
began with an in-depth workshop to analyze “lessons learned” from
the _Janus_ experience, led by veteran union trainer and economist,
Mark Brenner from the University of Oregon’s Labor Education and
Research Center. His skillful facilitation encouraged the room to
explode with conversations as delegates compiled and shared their
“best practices” and “mistakes to avoid.”

In a room next door, the Freight, Towing & Environmental Caucus began
their meeting with an update from Coast Guard Lt. Chris Spring, who
detailed the latest changes in federal certification and manning
requirements for vessels. Delegates responded with many questions
about the interpretation and enforcement of these safety-oriented
rules administered by the Coast Guard. After finishing, Lt. Spring
conducted a similar workshop with the Passenger Industry Caucus.

AUTOMATION HITS IBU JOBS

At separate sessions for the Ferry Caucus and Freight/Towing caucus,
ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton and Local 400’s Jason Woods joined
with MUA official Paul Garrett to discuss the hot topics of automation
and cabotage. Ferry workers already saw automation replace jobs at
Washington State and the Golden Gate District when automatic ticket
machines replaced staff in kiosks. Now a new and different round of
automation has created an immediate crisis for workers at Georgia
Pacific’s paper goods warehouse on the Columbia River, where the
company (owned by the Koch brothers) has just announced an automation
plan that would destroy a majority of warehouse jobs. ILWU Canada’s
Secretary-Treasurer Bob Dhaliwal has been tracking news articles about
automation for years and provides them to ILWU members in a weekly
email. The IBU will draw on information and experience from the ILWU
and other unions in an effort to help warehouse workers and dozens of
working families being hurt by the automation plan.

CABOTAGE

The word “cabotage” comes from the French and originally described
coastal trading. It’s now become a legal term of art, referring to
maritime trade between ports within a country. Almost 100 years ago,
in 1920, Congress passed a law known as the “Jones Act,” requiring
trade between U.S. ports to use vessels built, owned and operated by
U.S. citizens. The Jones Act and other cabotage rules helped the U.S.
build a merchant marine industry during the 1920’s. As time passed,
the Jones Act protected good-paying maritime union jobs as global
capitalism outsourced most vessels and crewmembers to countries with
low wages, few regulations, no enforcement and weak unions.
Corporations have been trying to kill the Jones Act since the end of
the Second World War, and the fight continues.

“Every year, corporations try to attack cabotage laws in Australia,
Canada, Europe and the U.S., and every year we have to beat them
back,” said the MUA’s Paul Garrett. The battle in Australia became
pitched last year, when the country’s anti-union/pro-business
government announced plans to destroy cabotage laws. The latest threat
is being battled with help from the International Transport Workers
Federation (ITF), a global network of unions that includes the IBU and
ILWU. Paul Garrett attended a recent ITF meeting in Singapore this
past October, where Terri Mast was elevated to become the group’s
Second Vice Chair of Inland Waterways, a post she’s using to create
a new Committee on Tugs and Towing.

“These international networks are important, said Garrett, noting
how coordination between unions helped the MUA win their 1998
Patrick’s dispute involving an Australian Stevedoring company that
tried to break the union. The ILWU played a critical role in that
fight by refusing to handle Patrick’s cargo.

APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAMS

Throughout the convention, delegates made positive comments about two
seamanship apprentice programs initiated by the IBU. The first was
established in 1980 at the Tongue Point Job Corps Center in Astoria,
Oregon. That program’s success over 38 years inspired Southern
California’s IBU Region to recently launch a similar program. _The
Dispatcher_ has run previous reports on both programs and is planning
future coverage. IBU Convention delegates agreed that the Tongue Point
program is vitally important, and the union will be taking new steps
to help educate cadets there about the role of maritime unions in
their industry. One IBU member attending the Convention from the Bay
Area was Aubrey Johnsson, who graduated from Tongue Point a few years
ago and shared her valuable experiences with delegates, including how
much she thought veteran IBU leaders and young cadets could benefit
from more interaction.

The Southern California maritime apprentice program recently enrolled
their first round of new cadets who are now focused on classroom
studies. Efforts are underway to secure them field internships with
union maritime employers.

CAUCUSES DEBATE KEY ISSUES

The Ferry Workers and Freight Caucuses both discussed state and
federal legislation, along with political developments in CA, OR, WA
and HI, including:

THE JONES ACT – This important law protecting union maritime jobs
survived an attack last year by anti-union forces in Congress who
falsely blamed the law for supply shortages in Puerto Rico following
hurricane Maria’s $43 billion hit in 2017. Special efforts will be
needed to reach a small but important number of progressive members in
the House of Representatives who were influenced during the debate by
antiunion myths and propaganda.

ENVIRONMENTAL CONFLICTS – Washington State delegates detailed their
experience with a well-intentioned but deeply-flawed carbon tax ballot
measure. It was defeated by voters – but re-opened longstanding
tensions between the building trades and other unions over whether
workers should take action to protect the planet from global warming,
focus solely on jobs – or find a way to do both. One possible point
of agreement is that workers should be protected from bearing the
brunt of urgently needed changes.

This particular carbon tax measure was unintentionally drafted in a
way that would have deeply cut the State’s Transportation and public
ferry budget, making it a “no-deal” for the IBU. This painful
experience highlighted the need for unions to be more involved with
environmental groups so they can participate when environmental laws
are conceived and drafted.

INDUSTRIAL WATERFRONT PROTECTION – Secretary-Treasurer Terri Mast
opened this topic by noting that coastal cities must take steps now to
protect their industrial waterfront lands or risk losing them –
along with good-paying jobs. In Seattle, the IBU and ILWU are part of
a successful coalition that joined forces with local business groups
to protect Seattle’s working waterfront, especially in the South of
Downtown (SODO) industrial area. The Mayor has since appointed ILWU
member John Persak and Mast to a committee that will suggest solutions
to save the City’s industrial waterfront.

VOCATIONAL TRAINING – In Washington State, the IBU has joined with
vocational education advocates to see if they can require all schools
in the state to provide a minimum number of vocational classes so
working-class families can get training that leads to good-paying
union jobs for their children.

ARTIC SCRAMBLE – ILWU Alaska leader Dennis Young shared his efforts
to monitor plans to route commercial vessel traffic through previously
frozen areas of the artic. He described the aggressive scramble by
countries and companies to enter areas that were unreachable until
global warming began melting polar ice at an alarming rate. Besides
opening shorter polar routes between Asia and Europe, he said
companies want to drill for oil and gas in the outer continental shelf
beneath the artic.

V.P. OLVERA ON ORGANIZING

Tuesday began on a solemn note with a brief ceremony recognizing IBU
members who passed since the last convention. Everyone stood in
silence as names of the departed from every region were read into the
official record.

Newly-elected International Vice President Bobby Olvera, Jr., thanked
the IBU for inviting him to observe and participate at the convention,
then quickly jumped into what he called “new changes that are coming
to the ILWU.” He said the changes would include better
communications, new education modules and a “return to our roots”
when it comes to organizing. He said the officers recently held their
first National Organizing Committee meeting and would hold more each
quarter, probably scheduled before or after International Executive
Board meetings.

He said there would be greater coordination with Hawaii, and a
willingness to pursue long-term organizing campaigns that make sense
from a strategic standpoint. “We talk a lot about solidarity, but
don’t always walk the walk,” he said. “There should never be an
ILWU campaign that doesn’t involve every ILWU local in a 100-mile
radius, so everyone knows what the issues are, who the people are, and
what’s at stake for all of us.” He closed by saying the ILWU can
help “re-build the house of labor in a progressive way, by working
with other progressive unions, including nurses, teachers and others
who share our vision of helping the entire working class.”

FERRIS URGES COURAGE AND ACTION

Newly-elected ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Ed Ferris was
next, and he began by challenging delegates to “search for
opportunities among all the challenges we face, including hostility to
unions from many politicians.”

Ferris continued, “We’re up against a wealthy and well organized
ruling class that doesn’t care about the working class. So giving a
couple of bucks to politicians during campaign time just isn’t going
to cut it. We have to be more involved with our local communities. We
need to promote social justice and environmental issues. We must reach
out and embrace everyone with common concerns, whether its opposing
discrimination in the LGBT community or supporting a neighborhood
concerned about pollution.” Ferris offered his cell number to all
the delegates and made a point of attending workshops and sessions
throughout the convention.

HAWAII ORGANIZING

Veteran International Vice President for Hawaii, Wesley Furtado,
greeted delegates with a warm “aloha!” then recalled his close
relationships with all four IBU Regional Directors in Hawaii who have
served during his 18-year tenure. Furtado explained his latest
organizing effort involves securing first contracts for supervisors on
the docks who recently joined the ILWU. The effort started in Hawaii,
then spread to the mainland where supervisors in Southern California
also joined the ILWU, despite management’s strong objection.

Furtado also explained how the ILWU’s longstanding strength and
reputation in Hawaii has made them the “go-to” union when workers
want to organize.

“We represent all kinds of workers from all kinds of backgrounds,”
he said, citing a diverse list, including, “supermarkets,
graveyards, hotels, spas, golf courses, agricultural workers, coffee,
candy, beer distribution and more. The members include Filipinos,
Chinese, Japanese, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and more.”
Furtado concluded by saying “mahalo,” thanking delegates before
leaving the podium.

ORGANIZING PANEL

The convention heard from two ILWU staffers who are responsible for
executing the ILWU’s organizing strategy: Assistant Organizing
Director Ryan Dowling who supervises the overall program, and Senior
Organizer Jon Brier who is assigned to the Puget Sound Region. Dowling
did a good job describing the ILWU’s current campaigns, including
the effort to train and mobilize workers against the Janus decision
that targeted public employees. Another campaign he explained involves
hundreds of veterinary hospital workers – including some located in
Seattle, with others around Portland and San Francisco. He also
explained efforts underway  to help workers organize in the legal
marijuana industry.

Jon Brier covered some recent IBU organizing efforts, including one to
help fuel dock workers in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. He praised the effort
by IBU rank-and-file organizer Adam Dalton who played a key role in
the campaign by training workers, involving ILWU members, recruiting
civil rights groups, and cultivating community support. Despite the
hard work by everyone involved, flaws in the law allowed the company
to eventually fire union leaders and decertify the union. Brier has
devoted much of his time this year to helping public employees,
including ferry workers in Washington State and Alaska, respond in a
positive way to the antiunion _Janus_ decision, by organizing
member-to-member conversations to keep workers in the union.

RESOLUTIONS SET POLICY

Much of the remaining time at the convention was devoted to drafting,
amending and debating resolutions on a wide range of issues and
concerns. (See the sidebar for a summary of resolutions passed by
delegates.)

NEXT CONVENTION IN 2021

Before closing the IBU’s 24th Convention, President Secchitano
thanked the 45 delegates and 20 guests for their hard work and
commitment. “Each of you came here because you care about your union
and then spent the past four days contributing ideas and suggestions
to help us do a better job. Thank you on behalf of all 4,000 IBU
members for your time and effort.” The gavel then came down and the
convention adjourned with a new course for navigating the next three
years until the 2021 Convention.

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