ILWU attends International Dockers Council in Miami

Commenting on critical issues: President McEllrath addressed IDC delegates from around the world with comments about new technology and other changes in the longshore industry.

Commenting on critical issues: President McEllrath addressed IDC delegates from around the world with comments about new technology and other changes in the longshore industry.

ILWU International President Bob McEllrath led a large delegation of ILWU leaders who attended the 7th General Assembly of the International Dockworkers Council (IDC) in Miami, Florida on September 26-29.

The semi-annual meeting brought together docker unions from a dozen countries. The ILWU delegation included 17 representatives, consisting of International President McEllrath, Vice Presidents Ray Familathe and Wesley Furtado, Coast Committeemen Frank Ponce De Leon and Cameron Williams, and a dozen elected leaders from the major Longshore locals.

The other part of the U.S. delegation was composed of leaders from the International Longshoreman’s Association (ILA) who sent a delegation representing dockworkers employed at ports in the Gulf and East Coast.

“Our goal was to bring a representative group of leaders who were interested in sharing our experiences and learning from what other unions are doing around the world,” said McEllrath.

Among the topics discussed were:

  • Automation and new technology.
  • The privatization of public docks.
  • Health and safety issues facing dockworkers.
  • Expansion efforts by non-union or substandard operators.

An entire day was devoted to the topic of automation. Academic experts\ and industry officials made presentations about the latest research and experience with new technology – along with comments and contributions from dockers at the Assembly.

The ILWU delegation brought a new documentary video prepared especially for the General Assembly to explain the new robotic technology being used at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The ten-minute video produced for the Coast Longshore Division by filmmaker Nate Sacharow, includes interviews of ILWU officials and explanations about how the new technology operates and impacts workers. The film notes that the automation projects in Southern California were heavily subsidized with public dollars and are displacing hundreds of good-paying union jobs.

The video helped spark conversations and comparisons with other unions about their experiences with automation, including dockworkers from the Netherlands and Australia.

Experts noted that a final accounting of the costs and benefits of port automation

has yet to be made – and that the costs of massive investments, frequently subsidized with public funds, and declining tax revenues from substituting workers for robots – has yet to be accounted for.

“The IDC and International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) are important international bodies,” said President McEllrath. “We always learn things at these meetings, and this one was particularly useful because we were able to share our experiences with automation and new technology.”

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