The Coast Longshore Division held a Grievance and Arbitration Procedures (GAP) workshop from February 5-10 in San Francisco. The five-day workshop provided extensive training for 70 ILWU members and local union officials.
The goal was to prepare teams with expertise and skills that will enable them to represent members during grievances, arbitrations and appearances before regional Labor Relations Committees (LRCs).
The workshop began with presentations by experienced ILWU officers, attorneys and staff that covered a range of topics including research and investigative tools, an overview of key provisions of the Coast Longshore Division Contract, plus important issues relating to health and safety and technology.
The week culminated in a mock arbitration exercise that allowed participants to apply their new skills and knowledge in a group exercise that closely mimicked a real arbitration from beginning to end. Participants were placed in groups and randomly assigned roles as either employers or union members and then presented with a fictional scenario involving a jurisdictional issue. Each team had to prepare their case including researching past arbitrations, interviewing witnesses and identifying key issues in the dispute. Teams then engaged in a mock LRC meeting, followed by a mock arbitration in front of a panel of three arbitrators.
The workshop was put together by the Coast Longshore Division’s Education Committee. “GAP helps give local officers the information and tools to do their jobs more effectively and more efficiently, said Education Committee and Local 13 member Sunshine Garcia. “GAP also educates emerging leaders who will be stepping into those positions later on, so they’re better prepared to represent members, protect ILWU jurisdiction and defend our rights on the job.”
Local 63 member Calvin Wade said the GAP training was a great experience. “This was an opportunity for me to gain knowledge about how to access a vast amount of information that I can use to help many members in Los Angeles,” Wade said. “This is invaluable and by far the best experience I’ve had being a part of the ILWU.”
Local 18 member Rene Way also reported a positive experience: “GAP gave me tools that I can take back to help me serve my union better and help protect our work,” she said.
Planning and follow-up
The Education Committee planned the workshop for months. And after the workshop concluded, they met to evaluate the training sessions, using feedback from participants and presenters The constructive feedback allows the program to be constantly improved and updated.
“Education is an investment in the union and our membership,” said Local 19 President Rich Austin, Jr., who has been a member of the Education Committee since 2005. “Hopefully some of the attendees will emerge as future leaders in this union, as has happened with past workshops and trainings.”
President McEllrath and other titled officers were present for much of the training. “We need a lot more members with leadership skills to keep the ILWU strong,” said McEllrath. “This training is a great way to help people get some of those skills to assume leadership roles in our union.”