Friday, October 24, 2014

ILWU Local 6, strikes Waste Management. AFL-CIO leaders tell their members to scab.

by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

(I apologize for the quality of the video. Camera malfunction but it's all I have)

The ILWU Local 6 represents sorters and other workers at the Waste Management recycling center (we used to call them dumps) at the end of Davis Street in San Leandro CA. The workers have not had a raise in four years.

Most of the workers are Latino's, many of them immigrants and they complained to me about disrespect and discriminatory treatment on the job. Workers told Facts For Working People that management is refusing to budge on wage increases and workers don't trust the management to comply with the Oakland City Council's meager wage increase provisions which would raise wages from round $12 an hour now to around $21 an hour by 2019. This is the only possible increase on the table so far. It is a sorry state of affairs when the only chance of making any headway albeit an inadequate one, is relying on a municipal body run by politicians in one of the two Wall Street Parties.

As I walked the picket line, drivers for Waste Management, members of Teamsters Local 70,  drove through the picket lines as the strike does not have sanction from the Alameda Labor Council.  I called the Labor Council to find out why and was told that the ILWU local 6 is no longer affiliated to the AFL-CIO.  The source said that she hoped the strike is successful.  Unfortunately hope doesn't pay the rent and it doesn't win strikes.

We have a situation I would say where disputes between sections of the trade union bureaucracy are harming workers yet again. I explained to the Labor Council spokesperson that one way to build solidarity and perhaps get the ILWU back in to the AFL-CIO would be to pull the Teamsters off the job which would be a first step in winning the dispute.   Teamster Local 70, the union that represents the drivers should pull their members off the job regardless of AFL-CIO sanction. Picket lines mean don't cross, bureaucratic obstacles should be breached.

Seven years ago Waste Management locked the Teamster drivers out. The sorters, despite being overwhelmingly lower paid immigrant workers walked out in solidarity with them. They lost almost two months pay.  I watched as drivers scabbed on these workers and I could see by the looks on their faces that they knew in their gut it is the wrong thing to do; we all know that.

Drivers honked their horns in support but this doesn't win strikes. There was anger and feelings of frustration among some of the striking workers at these very same people who they supported before crossing their lines. For the worker, these bureaucratic disputes mean little; it's a bread and butter issue. Teamster officials were down on the picket line in the morning waving their members through the picket line, they are acting as scab directors, it's disgusting really and not how the Labor movement was built.

As I write I am becoming more angry each moment. Here are workers on very low pay doing a socially important job and who stuck by their co-workers before and because of disputes between the labor hierarchy their lives are about to made more miserable and difficult.

The Teamster rank and file should organize to violate the non sanction crap and join their brothers and sisters on the picket lines.  It is not easy to confront the leadership but it has to be done and the way it can be done with success is through building militant rank and file opposition caucuses that can openly challenge the concessionary policies and bureaucratic methods that are the tools of the entire AFL-CIO hierarchy. If we want to change the direction of our unions, if we want to make gains, we cannot avoid a confrontation with the present leadership whose policies stem from their worldview, their worship of the market, profits, and a zealous respect for the bosses' rights.

If you are local, especially in San Leandro, head down to the end of Davis Street and join the picket lines. There's also a little more information here:

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