Over 130 International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) members from Southern California demonstrated outside the offices of Harley Marine, Westoil/Millennium on Friday, May 4. The demonstration sent a clear message that the ILWU family is united in support of the Westoil/Millennium tug boat and barge crews who are members of ILWU’s Marine Division – the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the
Pacific (IBU). The IBU collective bargaining agreement for the Millennium/Westoil workers expired on April 30, 2012. The workers are presently working under the terms and conditions of the expired agreement.
The tug and barge crews have been meeting for several months to prepare for the contract talks, to discuss what they want achieve in the new contract, and to democratically elect a bargaining committee. They have also received support and training from the ILWU’s Organizing and Communications Departments. Workers also met with IBU President Alan Coté to prepare for negotiations. The key issues on the table include protecting afford able health care, ensuring fairness in the dispatch system, and increasing safety by requiring proper manning on all vessels.
Members from ILWU Locals 13, 56, 63, 63OCU, 94 and ILWU pensioners and Federated Auxiliary members held a spirited demonstration at the intersection of Barracuda and Marina in Wilmington. ILWU International Vice President Ray Familathe and IBU Regional Director and former Millennium worker John Skow spoke at the demonstration, along with workers.
“We are fighting for a fair contract and safe working conditions,” said IBU Regional Director and former Millennium worker John Skow. “We want to be treated with respect and make sure these boats are operating as safely as possible.” Currently Westoil/Millennium operates some, but not all of its tugs with a three person crew. Many vessels operate with only a two-person crew, which increases the chance of a catastrophic accident if the captain or deckhand were to suffer an injury or fall overboard.
“Safer boats means a safer harbor,” said Skow. “We owe it to the harbor community to ensure that these boats are operating as safely as possible.” Vice President Familathe said the International was firmly behind the IBU’s fight for a fair contract. “We know it’s not going to be an easy battle.
The company is going to fight you every step of the way,” said Familathe. “But the key to winning this fight will be through solidarity. We have several harbor-area ILWU locals currently in contract fights—Port Pilots and Local 63 OCU (Office Clerical Unit). We can win all these fights if we stick together.”