Friday, February 20, 2015

Bosses heat up the media war against the ILWU

Tom Perez, US Sec. of Labor beefing up management's ranks at the table
Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

The class bias of the media is so obvious when we take the time to look at it. Last night’s local news report of the dispute between the West Coast dockworkers, members of the ILWU and the bosses and their agent, the Pacific Maritime Association, was nothing but a propaganda piece from the port bosses.

The heat is on now and the media is stepping up its war against the union and its members, ensuring that it is the union the public will hold responsible for any inconvenience they may experience because of the dispute.

“We need them back to work” said one small business person, how much suffering this is causing ordinary folks was the theme and the union is causing it.  California Senators, Feinstein and Boxer co-signed a letter to “both sides” urging them to agree.  Two millionaires, representatives of the 1%, putting the workers and our organizations on equal footing with the terminal owners, shipping companies and global capitalists.  They are not uninterested parties; they are not independent.  They are political representatives of the employers.

The report also said that Obama’s Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, who has been called in to negotiations to add to management’s ranks, warned “both sides” that “if they can’t agree by today they will have to go to Washington DC for negotiations”. This is the big gun, bringing the executive branch of the employers’ state in to the dispute directly. The union leadership will not do what is necessary, appeal to the ranks of labor and the working class.  The only response to those waging a class war against you is to wage a class war of your own.

There is massive pressure.  In this era of globalization such disruption in the trade of goods between nations has severe effects.  Manufacturers and workers, particularly in Asia will feel the effects of this dispute on the US West Coast. There are very powerful forces coming to bear on the trade union leadership and the dockworkers.  Calls for unity and cheerleading are not enough.  The global consequences of this dispute show how crucial international solidarity and unity in action between workers is. It is also crucial at home. 

The bosses are aware of the potential power of the unionized dockworkers; they want to crush it. The port bosses and their representatives in Congress and the White House cannot allow the dockworkers and their union to place any obstacle in front of their efforts to drive the standards of US workers back even further.

Confrontations like these are not new. The union leadership has bent over backwards to appease the bosses in the interests of profits and labor peace both at the expense of the worker.  But the more the union hierarchy concedes the more the bosses want.  The stakes are high for the bosses in the era of intense global competition and just as high for us. We have to relearn our history and the great struggles and battles that brought us what we have today. We have to abandon the Team Concept and the idea that bosses and workers have the same economic interests pitting workers in one industry against works in another, workers in one country against workers in another. We have to abandon the ties labor has to the Democratic Party and build an independent working class alternative.

In the case of the ILWU, the leadership has agreed to a gag order so as the bosses’ media wages an ideological propaganda war against the dockworkers and their union, their leadership remains silent.  The tremendous economic power of the dockworkers is evident from this ferocious media assault that is being waged against them and the response from the US government.  The ILWU, indeed, no union can win alone, in today’s climate. Yet this is how the heads of organized labor fight these battles, a recipe for defeat and defeats have been served up for decades.

There must arise a rank and file movement from below, a movement with an internationalist perspective that smashes the barriers between public and private unions, the trades and the unskilled, retail and industrial, foreign and domestic. We are not weak, our leadership has failed us and we cannot sit by and cry about it, we have to wage that most difficult struggle of all, the internal struggle to take control of our unions and change course.

The left in the unions, the various socialist groupings have failed also. Some of them acting in the most ultra left way that alienates them from the average worker and others, many of them, who refuse to wage an open campaign against the leadership's concessionary policies and who actually function as a left cover for them becoming almost indistinguishable from this right wing bureaucracy.  This has left many genuine class  conscious workers wanting to fight back with no place to go.

Some of us connected to this blog are discussing these issues and given our limited resources are trying to begin this process of building an alternative in the unions. If you are a rank and file trade unionists reading this and if you live in the SF Bay Area or Chicago in particular we would welcome your input.  Or if you would like to discuss with us the day to day struggle against the bosses in the workplace that the present union representatives are absent from contact us, we’d like to discuss with you.  You can e mail us at:

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