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Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

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What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Northwest grain terminal lockout would pit longshoremen against strikebreakers

From Michael Munk:

The article suggests the Lesser Evil, just re-elected with massive union support, may follow Bush’s 2002 example and invoke Taft-Hartley (T-H) to force the ILWU to keep working grain ships. T-H was the savage post war (1947) counter-attack on labor’s New Deal gains. Vetoed by Truman as a “slave-labor bill,” 20 Dems joined Senate Repubs to override his veto.

For more background: http://www.counterpunch.org/2004/09/06/how-many-democrats-voted-for-taft-hartley/

Northwest grain terminal lockout would pit longshoremen against strikebreakers

By Richard Read

The Oregonian, December 23, 2012

Two of three fully-crewed non-union tugboats wait on the Willamette River in Portland to dock ships in case of a lockout of longshoremen at Northwest grain terminals. Strikebreakers dispatched by J.R. Gettier & Associates are also standing by on high alert.

Scores of out-of-state strikebreakers wait on high alert in Northwest hotel rooms, ready to replace longshoremen in case of a lockout at grain terminals.
Three fully crewed, non-union tugboats protected by armed guards stand by, prepared to keep grain ships docking. In a provocative move, a California company has moored the tugs on the Willamette River near longshore Local 8's Northwest Portland union hall.

Quietly, owners of Portland, Vancouver and Puget Sound terminals have spent months preparing for a battle royal on the waterfront, lining up troops and assets like chess pieces. The agribusiness giants have laid legal groundwork for a lockout, which could occur anytime after a Monday noon deadline.

If Columbia Grain Inc., United Grain Corp. and Louis Dreyfus Commodities lock out dockworkers, Portland will become the new front line in a war between unions and a shadowy industry of strikebreaking companies that send tough guys across picket lines.

Confrontations can last months and turn violent.

But with billions of dollars of grain exports at stake, President Barack Obama could intervene, as President George W. Bush did in 2002, when he invoked the Taft-Hartley law to send West Coast longshoremen back to work.

One thing that probably won't happen, according to a national expert on lockouts and strikes, is permanent replacement of dockworkers, given labor laws and the tightknit, tenacious nature of the San Francisco-based International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

"The companies would be subject to picketing constantly, and these folks would never go away," said Michael LeRoy, a University of Illinois labor law professor. Longshore workers, he said, "can be aggressive about asserting their rights."

Longshoremen displayed that resolve last year when some were arrested for trying to block a train from entering a grain terminal in Longview, Wash. They showed it last summer, slowing Port of Portland operations in pursuit of jobs, and again in Portland and Los Angeles by making employers provide job security for guards and clerks.

Before dawn Friday, longshoremen began pulling up in large pickups at Portland's Local 8, and at other union halls in Vancouver, Seattle and Tacoma, to vote on the companies' "last, best and final" contract offer.

The companies want concessions similar to those the union made at a competing Longview grain terminal, saving the elevator millions of dollars in labor costs. But a "no" vote is all but certain, given the union bargaining team's unanimous thumbs-down recommendation.

"The vote is in the hands of nearly 3,000 men and women who have made these elevators successful by working in conditions that are not only strenuous, but also hazardous," Jennifer Sargent, a longshore union spokeswoman, said in a news release. "These members are exercising their democratic union right to decide whether the industry's proposal is positive or negative for their families, as well as for Northwest jobs and communities."
If a lockout ensues, picketers will face a familiar adversary: J.R. Gettier & Associates, a Delaware company that serves employers. Gettier is one of several strikebreaking companies nationwide.

The strike companies deploy hardened workers derided by union members as scabs, mercenaries and worse. Strikebreakers often leave home abruptly without knowing their destinations until a boss hands them plane tickets.

Once there, they hang out in hotel rooms until a work stoppage begins. They're bundled into vans and driven past protesters furious at outsiders for undercutting their cause.

Union members try to videotape strikebreakers and post images online. Strikebreakers do the same to union members.

Encounters can be dangerous. Ten years ago at 39, Canadian tool-and-die-maker Don Milner joined a picket line to support fellow union members striking at a Navistar truck plant in Windsor, Ontario.

A van driver working for a strikebreaking company ran over Milner and other protesters. The vehicle split his pelvis bone, broke an arm, shattered his bladder and kidneys and damaged his lungs.

Milner spent almost two months in a coma. He has spent almost two of the past 10 years in the hospital. But he disproved doctors who told him he'd never walk again.

"I just think scab workers are not seeing the whole picture," said Milner, who forgave the driver and declined to prosecute. "If they work for a plant for less money, they're taking all that away from a town."

Managers at Gettier and competitors Strom Engineering and Special Response Corp. declined to comment. Company web sites say they conduct pre-strike property surveys, develop strategies, post guards, replace workers and videotape picketers.

A strikebreaker who has crossed more than 20 picket lines said he's become accustomed to running the gauntlet, which initially spooked him. He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution and because strike companies prohibit interviews.

The strikebreaker said he gains satisfaction from learning to operate equipment and beating union production rates. He knows union members hate him. But he believes he actually helps them by keeping employers operating until they reach agreement.

That sort of logic disgusts Brenda Wiest, contact campaign coordinator for Teamsters Local 117 in Tukwila, Wash. She's helping strikers nearby at United Natural Foods Inc., a Rhode Island-based food distributor that has hired replacement workers.

"They come out here and try to intimidate and threaten workers who are standing up for their rights," Wiest said. "They film you constantly. They're the lowest form of humanity."
Strike companies, let alone tugboat operators such as California's Greger Pacific Marine Inc., charge employers handsomely. The mere presence of replacement workers waiting in hotels boosts employers' leverage.

Not all staffing companies will do that sort of work. In Portland, Maine, temp firm Rock Coast Personnel declined last month when Twinkies maker Hostess Brands called for replacement workers. "We didn't want to be a part of busting good well-paying jobs for hardworking Mainers," said Bill DiGiulio, vice president of operations.

In Portland, Oregon, the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association has given longshore leaders until noon Christmas Eve to say whether or not the union will accept the contract offer. The employers -- minus one, Temco, a Cargill venture that defected without explanation -- won't say what they'll do if the union turns it down.

The terminal owners have taken pains to prove talks reached an impasse, which would allow them invite back locked-out workers only on the final offer's employer-friendly terms. The Union could strike, and may well do so in the event of a lockout, saying the talks hadn't reached impasse and accusing the employers of unfair labor practices.

As the lockout looms, a separate union that represents longshore workers along the East and Gulf coasts is threatening its first Maine-to-Texas dock strike since 1977. The International Longshoremen's Association strike expected Dec. 30 would affect container cargo, as opposed to grain and automobiles.

Both there and in the Northwest, Obama could issue a back-to-work order under the Taft-Hartley act. The act empowers the president to seek a court injunction that imposes an 80-day cooling-off period while federal mediators seek a settlement.