LOS ANGELES – The International Longshore and Warehouse Union sent a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft, Nov. 1, calling on the Department of Justice to conduct a full investigation into the apparent collusion between the Bush administration, shipping companies and associations during the West Coast port contract negotiations.

The ILWU asked the Justice Department to release the names of individuals who attended secret meetings with the Bush administration regarding the Pacific Maritime Association’s (PMA) dispute with the union. The union states that there is considerable evidence in the public record that indicates that government officials collaborated with business officials and groups to develop specific strategies to weaken the bargaining power of the union.

According to the union, the secret meetings which occurred prior to the President’s imposition of the Taft-Hartley injunction, and even before negotiations began, included PMA and other members of the West Coast Waterfront Coalition, but not worker representation.

“Discussions between government and business officials crossed the legal and ethical line from lobbying to actual joint planning and coordinated actions,” said the ILWU letter. The charges are serious because it breaks labor law for the federal government to intervene in contract disputes to side with employers.

“This administration has a well-known penchant for secrecy. The American public has a right to know why the administration took the unprecedented action to undermine our workers who are ready, willing and able to work, but were not allowed on the docks,” said James Spinosa, ILWU president. “The White House’s well-known habit of putting corporate interests over the rights of average working Americans seems to have once again reared its ugly head, and this time, they are not going to be able to keep it a secret.”

In a Freedom of Information Act request the ILWU also asked the Department of Justice to release all administration records related to the West Coast longshore contract negotiations since July 2001 including correspondence between government officials, meeting minutes, notes and other documents.

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