ILWU tries to break negotiation stalemate

The West Coast International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) is attempting to break the stalemate surrounding the longshore contract negotiations by presenting a sweeping propoosal on technology to the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA). The proposal would give the PMA what it has said is its main objective in the talks – the ability to institute computer technology for the free flow of information – in return for PMA recognition of ILWU jurisdiction over the jobs that remain and economic enhancements as modeled on the 1960 Mechanization and Modernization Agreement.

“The union has stepped up and changed the jurisdiction section of our contract dramatically,” said ILWU International President Jim Spinosa in a July 17 press release. “Now it’s time for the PMA to meet us.”

The union’s proposal will allow information from outside computer systems to flow directly into terminal operating systems at West Coast ports.

In exchange for this innovation, the union wants to perform all the jobs that remain. These include any new jobs the technology creates, the terminal control and pregate supervisor jobs, and the work of planning ships, rails and container yards. Currently, the union performs about 50 percent of planning on the West Coast, with the other 50 percent outsourced to non-bargaining-unit workforces. The money saved from the higher productivity far outweighs the cost to the PMA to have marine clerks to do the planning work.

A California labor unity rally is planned for July 24 in San Francisco. The noon rally, sponsored by the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, ILWU, International Brotherhood of Teamsters and San Francisco Labor Council, will feature AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Linda Chavez-Thompson. The rally is calling for no government union busting, referring to the Bush administration’s possible intervention if the dock workers decide to strike.

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