St Johns' Pier Park at N Bruce Ave & N James St.
Join the PNLHA on SATURDAY, July 11 at 2:30pm to remember "Bloody Wednesday." The event will feature a guided walk through the park as local historians join union members and the community to discuss what happened that day, the meaning it had for those who were there, and reflect on the strike's role in Portland's history.
Musical accompaniment by General Strike.
Host: Pacific Northwest Labor History Association (PNLHA)
Sponsors: International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) - Local 8, Portland Jobs with Justice,
Portland State University Department of History
On July 11, 1934, striking longshoremen in Portland were shot by police while picketing the railroad leading into the port in St. Johns.
The longshoremen maintained their picket lines, won the 83 day strike, and inspired other Portland workers to organize industrial unions. The trees of Pier Park were pockmarked by police bullets and for decades served as reminders of what would be known as Portland’s “Bloody Wednesday.”
How to Get There:
Pier Park has accessible parking, is on the #44 and #75 bus lines, and is a 15 minute walk from downtown St. Johns.
Where to Meet:
Pier Park is big! Meet at the traffic circle at N James St. & N Bruce Ave.
What to know:
We'll be walking through Pier Park's trails which have a moderate slope. Be sure to wear appropriate footwear and bring water since it will likely be hot! The park offers restrooms and play areas for children. Families are welcomed.
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What Direction for Labor?
The acknowledgment of Labor’s existential crisis and the recognition that something must be done to resolve it is the key issue at the AFL-CIO’s four-day quadrennial convention in Los Angeles. The urgency of the situation has compelled Labor’s top officials to experiment in a search for solutions.
Most prominent among a variety of proposals is President Richard Trumka’s push to bring non-union “Labor allies,” such as possibly the NAACP, the Sierra Club and others, into some kind of formal relationship with the AFL-CIO. This has been met with concerns from both the Building and Construction Trades Department and the International Union of Operating Engineers, who have proposed a constitutional amendment that would restrict decision-making votes to “the members of the Executive Committee whose members’ employment opportunities and jobs are directly affected.”
Also highlighted at the convention has been the growth of “Alt-Labor” organizations. These groups organize and mobilize workers in defense of their own interests without union recognition. They include among others the Organization United for Respect at Walmart, or OUR Walmart; the SEIU-backed strikes of fast food workers; the National Day Labor Organizing Network, and the National Domestic Workers Alliance, all of whom have already signed partnerships with the AFL-CIO.
While these Alt-Labor groups do not have the legal protections of union organizing campaigns, they are also not subject to the legal restrictions that favor the employers of officially recognized efforts.
Indicating a dramatic fault-line in Labor just days before the convention, International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) President Robert McEllrath sent a letter to Richard Trumka announcing the union’s disaffiliation from the AFL-CIO.
Because of its militant history, the role it has played in supporting working class issues and its power on the docks that are a key choke point for commerce, ILWU’s disaffiliation draws into question whether the AFL-CIO has its house in order enough to reverse Labors decline.
In his letter, McEllrath notes how in 2008, an AFL-CIO affiliate filed unfair labor practice (ULP) charges against the ILWU, “…to try again to sabotage our bargaining.” McEllrath continues:
“Since then, we have seen a growing surge of attacks from various affiliates. A particularly outrageous raid occurred in 2011, when one affiliate slipped in to fill longshore jobs at the new EGT grain facility in the port of Longview, Washington, and then walked through ILWU picket lines for six months until we were able to secure this critical longshore jurisdiction.
“Your office added insult to injury by issuing a directive to the Oregon State Federation to rescind its support of the ILWU fight at EGT, which threatened to be the first marine terminal on the West Coast to go non-ILWU. The attacks by affiliates against the ILWU have only increased.”
The “affiliates” cited by McEllrath include the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). Significantly, both of these are known as craft unions, which organize workers according to a given trade. The ILWU, by contrast, is an industrial union, meaning that it organizes workers according a particular industry rather than a trade.
It now appears that the East Coast-based International Longshore Association (ILA) may follow the ILWU’s example and disaffiliate from the AFL-CIO. In response to the ILWU’s decision, leaders of the AFL-CIO have retaliated by refusing to extend “solidarity charters” and ousting the ILWU from local and state labor councils.
Because of their greater ability to completely shut down the production of an employer in the event of a strike, industrial unionism is seen as a more effective form of organizing workers against corporate interests. It was the growth of industrial unionism under the CIO in the 1930s that led to the greatest jump in union membership in U.S. history.
In addition, it compelled the political establishment to create reforms like Social Security, the National Labor Relations Act and other measures that have benefited workers for decades.
By siding with the IUOE and the IBEW in their raids of jobs that had traditionally belonged to the ILWU, the leadership of the AFL-CIO signaled its willingness to undercut the union movement’s strength in raising a fight against giant corporations like EGT and Goldman Sachs.
But without a commitment to strengthen the AFL-CIO’s ability to wage such fights, it seems less and less likely that Labor will be able to reverse its decline, regardless of the experiments being promoted at its convention.
McEllrath’s letter, significantly, brought up other disagreements with the leadership of the AFL-CIO that may be finding wider resonance among organized Labor.
“The ILWU has also become increasingly frustrated with the Federation’s moderate overly compromising policy positions on such important matters as immigration, labor law reform, health care reform, and international labor issues,” McEllrath writes. “We feel the Federation has done a great disservice to the labor movement and all working people by going along to get along. The Federation has not stood its ground on issues that are most important to our members.
“When President Obama ran on a platform that he would not tax medical plans at the 2009 AFL-CIO Convention, you stated that labor would not stand for a tax on our benefits. Yet the Federation later lobbied affiliates to support a bill that taxed our health care plans. Similarly, the AFL-CIO and the ILWU have historically supported comprehensive immigration reform with a clear path to citizenship that protects undocumented workers from firings, deportations, and the denial of their rights. However, the immigration bill you recently asked us to support imposes extremely long waiting periods on the path to citizenship and favors workers with higher education and profitability to corporations, as opposed to the undocumented workers such as janitors and farm workers who would greatly benefit from the protections granted by legalization.
“As a labor movement, we need to stand up and be the voice for our members and working people,” he adds. “We cannot continue to compromise on issues that benefit and protect the working men and women of America.”
Supporters of McEllrath’s position may have wished for a different course to be taken rather than the ILWU’s disaffiliation. The argument, for many, is that the ILWU would be better situated to push its views by staying within the AFL-CIO and building partnerships to oppose the compromising positions of its leadership.
Still, what McEllrath is pointing out represents the key fault-line in Labor’s foundation, one that is hampering its ability to turn the union movement around. The message is this: if unions are to reverse their current course and speak on behalf of the interests of all working people, its leadership must change its political approach.
Currently, Labor’s top officials see their chief task as getting a seat at the political table. From this position they aim to push back against the most egregious examples of corporate greed, and advocate for reforms that benefit workers. Using their official positions to maintain class peace, they keep the political machine running smoothly.
However, as wealth has become more concentrated in fewer hands and corporations have consolidated their control over both major parties, the old arrangement is no longer necessary. From the point of view of the 1%, the structure of organized Labor is a relic from the days when there were militant mass movements that challenged their control and profit making. Today, the elites have no more use for Labor’s political support than a once-broken, now-healed arm has for a sling.
Ignored and rebuffed by the corporate parties, Labor’s top leaders today have compromised the interests of their membership and all workers in the hope of appearing to be reasonable statesmen and not losing their minority seats at the political table. In doing so, they have exposed their own weakness to the corporations and become increasingly removed from their own members’ interests.
If the unions’ direction is to be reversed, it will require a leadership that is not beholden to maintaining ties to powerful corporate politicians who dominate the Democrat and Republican parties. Rather, it will require an independent workers’ movement committed to building a social movement to challenge corporate political power in the streets and at the ballot box.
Political independence for Labor does not mean we reward our friends and punish our enemies in the corporate political establishment. It means we mobilize on a continuing basis, in the largest numbers possible, with our own demands that we do not water down according to what politicians like Obama say is possible. If the CIO had not done this in the 1930s, and instead focused its resources on lobbying campaigns such as they are done today, it never would have risen as a force in American society.
The lack of good jobs remains the overriding concern for the vast majority of working people. President Trumka and the AFL-CIO is on record supporting the creation of a federal jobs program paid for by taxing the rich. If Labor were to commit its resources towards building an independent social movement, there is no doubt it would draw in union and non-union workers in great numbers.
When it is only Trumka talking, it is easy for Obama to dismiss him. But when millions are in the streets demanding a jobs program, the people’s call cannot be so easily overlooked. In addition, such a movement would help ease the competition between workers that is the underlying cause of the IUOE and IBEW raids on the ILWU.
Without the commitment to build a social movement, all the innovative ideas coming out of the AFL-CIO convention may come to little, if anything. Even union efforts to support low wage workers at Walmart and in the fast food industry cannot, on their own, reverse the decline of workers’ living standards. A politically independent workers movement for jobs, on the other hand, would seize this moment of political change and raise the possibility of workers’ victories everywhere. It would move the vast majority’s needs to the center stage at the expense of corporate greed, strengthening campaigns for a $15 minimum wage, amnesty for immigrants, health care for all and many other demands that workers need.
Mark Vorpahl is a union steward, social justice activist and a writer for Workers Action and Occupy.com. He can be reached at Portland@workerscompass.org
The California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) issued a report yesterday affirming the findings of an exhaustive complaint filed by Kaiser Permanente’s frontline mental health clinicians, who are represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). The DMHC cited Kaiser for multiple violations that have now been referred to the agency’s Office of Enforcement, which is responsible for imposing legal and financial penalties on HMOs.
Among other findings, the DMHC found that:
In addition, the DMHC took Kaiser to task for its failure to prepare an adequate “corrective action plan” to fix the violations identified by frontline caregivers and state regulators. The DMHC formally informed Kaiser of its findings in August of 2012. The agency released its report to the public on March 18, 2013.
The impact of Kaiser’s violations are massive. With more than 7 million enrollees, Kaiser is the largest HMO in California and is the largest private-sector provider of mental health services in the state. It delivers care to patients with conditions that range from depression, anxiety disorders and autism to bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia and suicidal ideation.
Kaiser's failure to meet state standards results in significant and unnecessary suffering by patients, many of whom are coping with serious trauma, are in severe emotional distress and are in acute need of timely care. According to the DMHC’s report, “If the Plan [Kaiser] does not effectively monitor wait times and ensure that enrollees are not waiting excessively for an initial appointment or between appointments with their provider, significant numbers of enrollees with untreated or prolonged health conditions may suffer harm.” (p. 10)
"This report confirms what every Kaiser clinician knows," said Dr. Andris Skuja, PhD, a psychologist. "Kaiser doesn't take mental health care for its patients seriously. Our patients have serious needs. The last thing they need is for their care to be illegally curtailed by an HMO that's already making billions in profits, just so Kaiser can make a few more pennies on the dollar at patients' expense."
A union is an organization of two or more employees who band together to bargain with their employer over hours, pay and working conditions.
Leaders are elected. Members draft and ratify constitutions that guide the union.
Unions represent all employees whether they pay dues or not.
Unions are required by law to represent the interests of all employees whether they pay union dues or not. They bargain with employers over contracts to establish pay, benefits and working conditions. They represent employees in disciplinary processes, lobby for laws that help working families and offer member benefits and fellowship. Union members help each other and their communities.
Unions are needed now more than ever.
If it weren't for unions, there would be no minimum wage, no eight-hour work day, no child labor laws, no health and safety standards, and no weekends. Extremist anti-worker politicians and powerful corporations are trying to roll back those standards and destroy Social Security and Medicare. Unions are the only group standing between them and workers.
No country has a middle class that doesn't have unions. Unions raise wages, benefits and standards for all workers in an industry.
Without unions, employees have no rights in the workplace.
Without a union, employees have no rights in U.S. workplaces unless they belong to a class protected by equal opportunity laws or labor laws. In most states, employers can fire workers because they don't like the color of their eyes.
Collective bargaining brings fairness to the workplace.
Collective bargaining agreements are legally enforceable contracts to which employers and employees agree. They are intended to create a fair workplace by setting clear expectations for employees.
Collective bargaining agreements typically contain a clause requiring an employer to show “just cause” for disciplining and/or firing an employee. They make sure employees have a due process to defend themselves against unfair accusations by an employer.
Bad trade deals, not unions, are hurting American companies.
Bad trade deals hurt the American auto industry by giving foreign competitors an unfair advantage over U.S.-made vehicles. For example, Toyota was near bankruptcy after World War II, but the U.S. government rescued it by buying military vehicles for the Korean War effort.
Some of the country’s most successful companies have a union workforce, including: Southwest Airlines, AT&T, Costco, and UPS.
Unions raise productivity on average by up to 24 percent in manufacturing, 16 percent in hospitals, and 38 percent in construction. Union workers also have higher professional standards because they train workers.
Unions prevent jobs from going overseas.
Many collective bargaining agreements contain specific provisions that restrict the amount of work employers can outsource, helping to protect American jobs.
No worker is ever forced to join a union.
It has long been illegal to require and employee to join a union as a condition of employment. Workers may be charged a fee for union services even if they aren't members because unions are required to represent all employees and because employers are forbidden to discriminate against non-union members.
No Rights At Work laws let government interfere with the freedom of employers and workers to bargain with each other.
These laws force employers to treat all employees the same, and they force unions to represent all members. But they allow freeloaders to take advantage of unions by not paying for the services and benefits they receive. No Rights At Work laws are aimed at destroying unions and lowering workers' living standards.
Unions are always under attack by extremist CEOs and wealthy people.
The anti-union rhetoric you hear from extreme anti-worker politicians was bought and paid for by billionaires like the Koch brothers, Dick DeVos and the Wal-Mart heirs. They have a vast network of front groups, think tanks and paid media shills (like Glenn Beck) to smear unions.
Photo Credit: potowizard | Shutterstock.com
It’s an anniversary London, Ontario, did not celebrate. It’s been a year, and the shock has yet to wear off in the Canadian city just an hour’s drive east of Detroit. All that remains is thehardship of carrying on through mass joblessness, and its hand-in-hand partners, surges in poverty, mental health crises and addiction.
It’s a story many American communities will recognize -- but this one involves an American company wooed with a sweetheart deal by the Canadian government for a factory the Americans likely never intended to keep. What they really wanted, it seems, is to bust the union.
The lockout began on New Year’s Day, 2012, when Caterpillar Inc., a U.S. company, left 465 union workers on the pavement. At the Electro-Motive Diesel factory, they made engines and parts for diesel locomotives; Caterpillar subsidiary Progress Rail Services bought up the company in 2010.
The workers had refused the company’s demand of a 50-percent wage cut and slashed pensions and benefits. Then the workers of Canadian Auto Workers Local 27 voted to strike. They were prepared to fight hard bargaining with people power.
But on February 3, the company essentially told them all to go to hell, and permanently closed the plant.
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MEDFORD, Ore. - More than 98 percent of Oregon home-care workers have voted to ratify their new union contract with the state. And for the first time, the contract covers about 7,500 caregivers who work with people with mental-health issues and developmental disabilities. Rebecca Sandoval, a caregiver who was the bargaining unit chair for Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 503 on the bargaining team, says the workers agreed to a pay freeze. (contd.) Podcast and entire story available: http://www.newsservice.org/index.php
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