Labor Briefs


WEST COAST DOCK TALKS BREAK OFF

ILWU and company negotiators broke off contact negotiations late on July 21, blaming each other for the lack of progress. No new talks were announced, though both sides agreed to a 24-hour contact extension, reported AP (July 22). The chief company negotiator told the press he was bitterly disappointed. The union spokesperson said, “We offered him everything he asked for. He gave us nothing, zip, zilch. It’s a major disappointment and it shows he’s not really trying to negotiate.”

Less than a week before, the press reported that the ILWU had made a major concession that would “cost hundreds of longshore clerks their jobs by opening the ports to computerization.” (AP, July 17). Apparently, the shipping firms have not agreed to the union’s demand that certain clerical computer-related work be recognized within the ILWU’s jurisdiction. The talks are complicated by the attempted intervention on the side of the bosses by Bush administration officials Tom Ridge and Donald Rumsfeld. Unlike in past negotiations, the dockworkers have chosen not to work to rule, and, seemingly, productivity on the docks is normal.

Unemployed Workers Kicked Out of NY Parade

A group of unemployed workers who distributed fliers critical of New York Governor George E. Pataki were ejected from the Dominican Day Parade in the Bronx on Sunday, after the governor's re-election campaign questioned the workers' presence. The unemployed workers, some of whom lost their jobs because of the World Trade Center attack, were carrying signs calling for extended unemployment insurance benefits. But they were also distributing fliers in English and Spanish that accused the governor of “keeping our families poor” and “ignoring the unemployed.”

The governor has been endorsed by the hospital workers' union, 1199/SEIU, and he was marching in the parade with its leader, Dennis Rivera, a Democrat. They were directly behind the 32BJ members, who are also affiliated with the SEIU but have not endorsed a gubernatorial candidate. The unemployed workers had already begun marching in the parade when “an officer from the N.Y.P.D. is saying ‘Hold it, hold it!’ and all the cops surrounded us,” said Mitchell Price, who lost his job as a car-service dispatcher in December. But the tactic backfired, Mr. Price said, because members of his group then heckled the governor all along the parade route.

—Adapted from New York Times (July 18)

LIVING WAGE A DEAD LETTER, SO FAR

Even though 78% of the voters approved a living wage for workers at the Oakland, California, seaport and airport facilities, “not a single employee has received a raise.” (Oakland Tribune, July 22). The law provided that most workers must be paid at least $9.13 an hour with health benefits, or $10.50 an hour without. Authorities claim “loopholes” in the law are at the root of the problem. Workers are demanding that the authorities enforce the will of the voters. There’s no immediate resolution in sight, so some workers groups have threatened to sue the authorities.