Calif. Governor, Jackson unite with ILWU

LOS ANGELES – California Gov. Gray Davis joined with the state legislature, Rev. Jesse Jackson and scores of leaders here, warning President George W. Bush not to intervene in the contract negotiations of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) with their employer, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).

In a letter to the president dated Sept. 4, Davis said intervention in a “bonafide labor dispute” by using the military would be “counter-productive.” Bush had threatened military intervention in the event of any “labor action.”

Military intervention “may impede the negotiation process and increase the risk of a bargaining impasse,” the governor said, “parties involved in contract negotiations should be allowed to resolve their disagreements through the process of good-faith bargaining, not government intervention.”

The ILWU won pivitol backing when Jackson, elected officials, labor leaders and more than 300 unionists held a press conference Sept. 5 at the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor headquarters.

Assemblymember Alan Lowenthal announced the state legislature had passed a resolution calling on Bush to butt out.

“We represent 34 million people and this is our line to Bush: Stay out of California!” Lowenthal demanded.

Jackson, who had also joined thousands of unionists in support of the dockers on Labor Day led those assembled in chants of “Bush, stay off the docks!”

He said, “Bush is mobilizing for union-busting like Reagan did with PATCO. But Bush would not intervene to save workers from Enron, Global Crossing, WorldCom or Arthur Andersen.

Jackson said the longshore struggle cannot be separated from the November elections, and the Bush administration’s attacks on civil rights and liberties.

Jackson, who is leading a march in Washington, D.C., Sept. 13, warned that “Bush should not underestimate our resolve. When we fight together, we win!”

Reflecting the growing labor and community support for the dockers, Miguel Contreras, County Federation of Labor executive secretary-treasurer, said, “The ILWU is not alone. Labor in Los Angeles is with you and we have a lot of friends in the city council, state legislature and Congress. If we need to be down on the docks, we will be there with you!”

Labor leaders, representing 22 unions and tens of thousands of union members, stood up one by one and pledged to do “whatever it takes” to support the ILWU.

“When we were on strike, the ILWU supported us, and if they go on strike, 48,000 teachers in Los Angeles will be there with them,” said John Perez, president of the United Teachers of Los Angeles. Dick Slauson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council, said his members are integral to the ports and the ILWU can count on their support “100 percent.”

Todd Amorde, Screen Actors Guild director of special projects, said, “Our members have portrayed dockworkers ... and today our 120,000 members stand in solidarity with dockworkers.”

Los Angeles City Council member Janice Hahn rocked the press conference when she said, “If the federal government insists on waging war, then the brothers and sisters of labor and the city of Los Angeles will stand behind the ILWU.”

“Harry Bridges fought for the right to strike and no one can take that away,” said L.A. City Councilman Eric Garcetti. Both the city council and Mayor James Hahn officially called on Bush not to intervene.

“Pressure is working because the PMA called the ILWU and said ‘let’s negotiate,’” said ILWU Local 13 President Ramon Ponce De Leon. The PMA sabotaged the negotiations over Labor Day weekend.

“Last night, at 8 p.m. a tentative agreement was signed for a welfare package … We still have to put pressure on, but telling government to step back is helping to turn the tide,” Ponce De Leon announced and thanked all the supporters.

To keep the pressure on, Contreras announced a Sept. 19 rally when Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor Elaine Chao is scheduled to speak here.

“If this is not settled by then, we will be in front of the Biltmore Hotel with a message that Elaine Chao can take direct to Bush from us!” Contreras said.

The author can be reached at evnalarcon@aol.com