Saturday, April 26, 2008

Clash ahead over longshore union War protest

Members of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union are proceeding with plans for a work stoppage at 29 West Coast ports on May 1 to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the fact that union leadership has withdrawn its request to waterfront employers that they accommodate closure of the ports.

Planning for the protest began in February when the Longshore Caucus, the highest decision-making body for the 25,000 members of the longshore division within the ILWU, overwhelmingly approved a resolution in support of a day of protest.

According to its contract, the ILWU is entitled to schedule a "stop-work meeting" each month to discuss union business. It must give adequate advance notice to employers, who are represented by the Pacific Maritime Association, a group of shipowners, stevedore companies and terminal operators that negotiates labor contracts on their behalf.

The PMA routinely grants these requests, but only for meetings that are to be held during the second work shift, beginning in the evening. For the war protest, the ILWU said it wanted stop-work time during the day, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., the busiest cargo-handling shift of the day.

After the matter was approved by the caucus, ILWU President Bob McEllrath said on the ILWU Web site, "The caucus has spoken on this important issue, and I've notified the employers about our plans for stop-work meetings on May 1.".........

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