ILWU back at negotiating table but refuse day-to-day contract

| Thursday, September 05, 2002

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union walked out on negotiation talks Sunday and has refused to renew the contract, citing bait-and-switch tactics by the Pacific Maritime Association.

"Every time we get close to an agreement, PMA reneges," ILWU International President Jim Spinosa said. "If the PMA wanted a deal, it was there on the table in front of them. But from day one of the negotiations the employers have shown that they clearly don't want to bargain seriously. They want to create a crisis and get the government to force conditions on the union."

In a press release, the ILWU said, "Just as both sides were reaching agreement on the two biggest issues in negotiations, the employer group, the Pacific Maritime Association, drastically switched the terms, sabotaging the process. The employers' next move was to call the Bush administration, which has threatened to send military personnel to seize and operate West Coast ports."

"Until Bush butts out of our negotiations, the legal collective bargaining process will never get a chance to work," Spinosa said. "The government's interference is inappropriate. The Bush administration has informed us that it has assembled in San Diego trained Navy dockworkers from bases around the world and has them ready to move on us. In a time when we are supposed to be in a war against terrorism, why is Bush using the military against American workers involved in a legitimate labor dispute?"

ILWU officers left the negotiations Sunday at 11 a.m. to catch flights to Los Angeles to join the massive Labor Day march and rally attended by thousands of union members, Jesse Jackson and AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka, the second highest ranking officer in the American union movement.

The AFL-CIO has made the ILWU contract negotiations a top priority for the labor movement, since a military intervention here would set a precedent unheard of in decades of American history. Scores of elected officials, from U.S. Senators and Congressional representatives, to governors, state legislators and port city mayors, have joined the ILWU in calling for the Bush administration to get out of the negotiating process and to not send the military to the ports.

Then, to signal its displeasure with the PMA's bait and switch tactics, the ILWU Negotiating Committee declined Tuesday morning to renew the old contract as it had on a day-to-day basis since it expired July 1.

"Without a contract all economic and job actions against the employers are legal and open as options for the union," ILWU President Jim Spinosa said. "The ILWU Negotiating Committee will reassemble in San Francisco Tuesday afternoon and decide the union's next move."

The PMA balks at the Union's walkout, saying they had agreed "in principle" on health benefits and accused the ILWU of threatening work slowdowns.

"We reached an agreement in principle on health benefits, but the union continues to refuse to accept critically needed technology to modernize the ports. The union claims to support technology, but in fact, is hostile to the very concept of bringing our ports into the 21st century," said PMA President and CEO Joe Miniace, who says the ILWU opened the door to work slowdowns. "By walking away from the talks and refusing to agree to a contract extension, the union just fired the first shot."

The PMA says the ILWU has slowed down its productivity during previous negotiations to levels equivalent to a strike.

"Work slowdowns are how his union stages strikes," Miniace said. "I have said before that I will not tolerate a slowdown-strike, and that still stands. If the union wants to play games with the U.S. economy, they will have to do it from outside the terminal gates."
--Rene Tankersley, feature editor

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