L.A. LABOR NEWS
"more pro-labor news than a year of the L.A. Times"
L.A. Labor News * Editor: Jim Smith * Aug. 18, 1995 * #8
* ILWU shuts down coast.
* County cuts stopped for two months.
* Local 399 controversy.
* McCarron to be Carpenter's president?
* UAW/IAM/USWA unity statement.
Copyright 1995 L.A. Labor News. To reach L.A. Labor News:
FAX: 310/399-7352 * Voice: 310/399-8685
Postal: P.O. Box 644, Venice, CA 90294
Aug. 18, 1995 * #8
WEST COAST DOCK SHUTDOWN
DEMONSTRATES UNION POWER
The International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union pulled off a 100 percent effective, industry-wide strike, Aug. 7 &endash; something most unions can only dream about &endash; and didn't even take credit for it.
Tight-lipped ILWU leaders called the walkout by 8,000 longshore workers a "spontaneous work action." An official strike could have opened the union up to millions of dollars in damages for the massive shipping traffic jam that resulted.
Regardless of who gave every dockworker on the coast the idea to walk out at 8 a.m., Monday morning, no one is disputing that there were plenty of "beefs," (longshore grievances) to trigger the stoppage.
The employer association, the Pacific Maritime Association, is proposing ending operations at several smaller ports in the Pacific Northwest, "privatizing" other ports and replacing ILWU-represented clerks with computer filing systems.
Shipping companies can cause ports to dry up by routing their business to other harbors. PMA members are moving most of their business through the six largest ports &endash; Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Portland, Tacoma and Seattle.
In addition, union members have been angered by use of management-selected foreman instead of using "casual" foremen supplied by the hiring hall. An arbitrator ruled Aug. 2 that the practice was allowable under a contract provision negotiated in 1993.
Labor historians said the coast-wide walkout was the first since the union was formed in 1937. The ILWU's founding president, Harry Bridges built the union into one of the most powerful and aggressive in the CIO. It was expelled in 1949 and only recently returned to the AFL-CIO.
COUNTY WORKERS WIN
2 MONTH MORATORIUM
With few exceptions, the Los Angeles media failed to report the SEIU Local 660-led fight that blocked all layoffs and cutbacks of County services for two months. Instead, the press focused on cutbacks that will begin on Oct. 1, if state and federal funding fails to materialize.
The Local 660 moratoriumvictory, like the ILWU coast-wide walkout, shows what a determined union rank-and-file and leadership can accomplish. Here's the story the corporate media doesn't want you to know.
"We're gonna win," said a tired but confident Gil Cedillo as he slumped into a chair recently after another grueling day of lobbying Sacramento legislators. Few believed him before the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously, Aug. 1, to repudiate massive cuts and layoffs demanded by their executive officer Sally Reed.
A battle affecting the future of Los Angeles has raged for the past 40 days. The winners &endash; at least for now &endash; are those who believe in a strong role for local government in providing health care, welfare workers, neighborhood parks and libraries. The big losers were county officials who argued for massive downsizing, even if it left thousands without any health care and other crucial services.
Cedillo, the 41-year-old leader of the Los Angeles County workers union believes his organization's all-out fight to stop 18,000 layoffs and save public services, including hospitals, clinics, parks and libraries, has, at least for the time being, saved Los Angeles from a descent into the dismal future predicted in Ridley Scott's movie, Blade Runner.
"I hate to think what would have happened if our union hadn't reacted. Sally Reed's budget would have destroyed the social fabric and economic life of Southern California," muses Cedillo.
Another union spokesperson, Dan Savage, cautions that the fight is far from over while rattling off expected new funds totaling $600 million in "contributions" from state and federal programs, the over-funded county pension plan and the Metropolitan Transit Authority. It would have cost nearly that much to shut down targeted facilities, says Savage. Instead, that money can now be used to keep workers and services functioning.
It was a scary moment for county workers when the Supervisors voted June 20 to endorse Chief Administrative Officer Sally Reed's budget. Her budget cited a $1.2 billion deficit and demanded an immediate 20 percent cut in county services, the closure of USC/County General Hospital, health clinics, parks and libraries and 18,000 layoffs.
With disaster staring it in the face, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 660, the union that represents 40,000 county workers, began 40 days of creative chaos that shifted the framework from a discussion of budget cuts to a search for new revenue.
"From the beginning we knew we had to focus the debate on the quality of life in Los Angeles," says Cedillo. "Reed wanted a superficial debate on a balanced budget."
To shift the debate, Cedillo and other Local 660 leaders mobilized their members and reached out to community leaders whose organizations would be affected by county cutbacks. Several thousand Local 660 members had been attending meetings and planning a fightback since early Spring. Within days of the June 20 vote, the union had formed an Emergency Coalition to Save Los Angeles, which in turn had adopted and published Local 660's alternative budget to "Keep Los Angeles Working."
The Coalition also spent a half million SEIU dollars on TV advertisements that urged viewers to put the heat on the Board of Supervisors. One SEIU staff member credits the ads with keeping new Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky from fully embracing the cuts.
The union also won support from the courts. Superior Court Judge Diane Wayne issued a restraining order, July 28, to temporarily stop the layoffs issued to 2,000 workers in the Dept. of Public Social Services. The first indication that the Supervisors were wavering in their support of Reed's layoff demands came as they caved in and extended the court's moratorium in layoffs until at least Aug. 8.
The union's pressure on the Board to begin lobbying for money in Sacramento and Washington was crucial in being able to stop the cuts. "We were the first ones to go to Sacramento to meet with the Assembly and Senate," claims Cedillo. "The Supervisors weren't even thinking of it until we put the pressure on them." In the end, the Los Angeles delegation in the Assembly held up the state's budget until aid to the County was promised by Gov. Wilson.
But first, the union had to get their attention. Thirty union members a day, including some with layoff pink slips, walked the halls of the Capitol every day for the past six weeks.
"We wanted everyone to know we wouldn't quietly be shown the door," says Cedillo. To make sure the message got through, the union walked picket lines at legislators' L.A. offices.
Local 660 created a political crisis that couldn't be ignored by staging mass demonstrations, getting arrested in civil disobedience, storming county administrative officer Sally Reed's office, packing Board of Supervisors meetings and "unity breaks" at hospitals. Nine hundred rank and file members in the Dept. of Public Social Services got into the act with unsanctioned sickouts that closed many offices.
"We've had nine major mobilizations in the past month and as many as five activities like picketing, lobbying, bargaining, sit-ins and court appearances in a single day," says Cedillo, looking more and more weary as he counts them off.
Union clout was also felt when Local 660 brought several national "heavy-hitters" to Los Angeles to confront the Supervisors and lobby for funding. The normally boisterous Board sat quietly, July 6, as SEIU international president John Sweeney lectured them about the need for health care. Their thoughts may have turned to their political futures as Sweeney threatened to bring down the wrath of his million member union. That Sweeney is the favorite to win a contested election for president of the 13-million member AFL-CIO in October only underscored the perils of endorsing Sally Reed's drastic cutbacks and layoffs. Sweeney later met with President Clinton and White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta to argue for emergency funding.
Sweeney's appearance was followed two weeks later by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, farmworker icon Dolores Huerta and New York hospital union leader Dennis Rivera.
Although Rivera was lost in the crowd as the press crushed in around Jackson, his appearance in Los Angeles must have brought chills to Reed and conservative Supervisors. Rivera has been masterminding coalition demonstrations against cutbacks and union busting in New York that dwarf Local 660's by a factor of ten. Concrete support from Huerta's political savvy United Farm Workers union was felt in Sacramento. "It was unbelievable to some legislators that farmworker leaders were walking the halls in Sacramento, not for their own issues, but to talk about L.A. County," exclaims Cedillo.
In the end, the multi-level assault was too much for Board conservatives Michael Antonovich and Deane Dana. They, and the man in the middle, Zev Yaroslavsky, fell in line with Gloria Molina and Yvonne Burke in changing their votes to fully continue all county service until at least Oct. 1. By then, more money must be found or the cutbacks will be back on the Board's agenda.
"We have to utilize this time to reassess how we fund local government," says Cedillo, who has his own proposals. "The County must run more efficiently and effectively. But that doesn't mean it should run roughshod over workers rights, just the opposite, workers will do a better job when they're treated with respect."
"Secondly," says Cedillo, "homeowners should not have to fund services that are used primarily by industries. County health care subsidizes low-wage industries, like garment, food services and retail, that don't provide their own insurance. We have to close the loopholes and look into a split property tax roll where corporations and banks would pay their fair share."
Meanwhile, Sally Reed has been ignored by the Board and no one is happier than Local 660. "The Board should seriously consider finding a new chief administrative officer," says Savage.
Savage ripped into Sally Reed for her demands for drastic cutbacks: "She orchestrated this entire problem. Reed organized Wall Street agencies to hammer the County for its supposedly irresponsible spending. She constantly compared L.A. to the bankrupt Orange County. It was completely irresponsible for the executive officer to do those things. The Board ended up not accepting any of her proposals. Reed's only a hired hand, but she but spend two years trying to mold and influence public policy. Burt Margolin, who came in to head up the health task force a few weeks ago, got a funding commitment from Washington after Sally Reed had failed to get one for the last 8 months."
The battle of the budget won't be over until this year's shortfall is fully made up and permanent sources of additional revenue are found. With continue population growth forecast for the County, demands on public services will grow. But for now the summer's political heat wave is over. Gil Cedillo can get his first good night's sleep in weeks.
(A version of this article appeared in the Aug 4-10 L.A. Village View)
AND HUNGER STRIKE AT LOCAL 399
Janitor and newly-elected Executive Vice President of SEIU Local 399, Cesar Oliva Sanchez and ten others are on the 13th day of a hunger strike in front of union headquarters at 7th Street and Whitmer Avenue.
They, and other insurgent members of the Multi-racial Alliance which swept 18 executive board and three trustee positions in June, say the local president, Jim Zellers, and international officials are not allowing them to assume power.
Meanwhile on Aug. 16, the SEIU international held trusteeship hearings a few blocks away at the Patriotic Hall. Another day of hearings is scheduled for Aug. 22.
The standoff has attracted national attention mainly because the international's leader is John Sweeney, candidate for president of the AFL-CIO.
Growing numbers of labor and political leaders in Los Angeles have expressed concern about the effect of a perceived unfair treatment of the mainly-Latino hunger strikers by the union. Several hundred thousand Latino manufacturing and service workers have been targeted for organizing in the coming years by organizations like L.A. MAP (Manufacturing Action Project).
L.A. Labor News has learned that a meeting was held last weekend by Latino political leaders including County Supervisor Gloria Molina, State Assemblymember Antonio Villaraigosa, City Councilmember Mike Hernandez and U.S. Representatives Xavier Becerra and Esteban Torres. Following the meeting, Becerra and Torres reportedly phoned Sweeney with offers to mediate the conflict.
Zellers is insisting he has the right to hire and fire staff and make other day-to-day decisions in running the local. New executive board members say he wants them reduced to a consultative body.
Yolanda Rios, the new Secretary-Treasuer says the executive board as a whole has ultimate authority. The Alliance is distributing a page from the local's constitution and bylaws which states, "The Executive Board is hereby authorized and empowered to . . . guide, manage, conduct and direct the activities, affairs, and functions of this Local Union . . . including expenditure, investment, and management . . ." (abridged for space).
With more than 26,000 members and a colorful history, Local 399 is an important bastion and symbol of international power within SEIU. It was founded in the 1950s by revered former president, the late George Hardy who left his father's union in San Francisco to organize race track employees in Los Angeles. The Local grew to encompass janitors and health care workers. In the 1970s and early 80s, the union lost most of its African-American janitor members as buildings contracted-out the work. A highly successful seven year organizing effort for 8,000 Latino janitors concluded last April with the signing of a city-wide contract, although at lower wages than union janitors enjoyed years earlier before their work was contracted out.
During a break in the trusteeship hearings, Aug. 16, Zeller supporters mobilized about 75 mainly-Latino members for a rally, "against the dissident officers and their supporters to stop their divisive attack and to work for unity in their local."
L.A.'S MCCARRON MAY BECOME
CARPENTER'S INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT
Doug McCarron, a former drywaller and current Secretary-Treasurer of the Southern California District Council of Carpenters is being touted to become the next international president of the 375,000-member United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners.
Sigurd Lucassen, the incumbent is not running for reelection at the union's Las Vegas convention in September. He is supporting McCarron who is currently the international's second vice president.
First Vice President Paschal McGuinness is leaving to become Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO's Building and Construction Trades Department. That body's president Robert Georgine has recently been under fire for also being chairperson of the Union Labor Life Insurance Co. Georgine says he donates his AFL-CIO paycheck to charity.
Backers of AFL-CIO President Tom Donahue claim Carpenter support for challenger John Sweeney is weakening. They cite the recent refusal of its executive board to join in Lucassen's endorsement for Sweeney. If true, it would be the first erosion of Sweeney's support since Donahue was named interim president.
UNITY STATEMENT OF
THE UAW, IAM & USWA
To better win a secure and prosperous future for working men and women in the global economy of the twenty-first century, the IAM, the UAW, and the USWA hereby agree to combine our individual strength
By this declaration, we pledge to unite the membership and the resources of our three great unions into a new, two million members strong union by the year 2000.
Taken together, the men and women represented in the UAW, the IAM and the USWA are at the core of private and public sector economic life throughout North America.
From the many battles it has taken to achieve that position, there is already much that we share.
We have been profoundly shaped by the struggle to win for workers a better life from the owners of companies that form the bedrock of our economy.
During times of war and peace, we have defended the dignity, the rights, the political power and the living standards of our members. As a result, they are among the best protected and compensated workers in North America.
Among us, we bargain with many of the same industrial and non- industrial employers.
Each of our unions has many members in skilled trades as well as in the production workforce.
Each of us has diversified extensively into the service, technical, office and professional sectors of our economy.
Our consistent leadership in uniting men and women of all races, creeds and ethnic backgrounds in common cause has created deep bonds between us.
We share a rich tradition of support for international unionism.Each union has members in Canada and the United States.
Our aggregate experience in collective bargaining, contract enforcement, of organizing, and fighting for a progressive political agenda is second to none.
Throughout our history, our unions have, time and again, responded to the need to adapt to new economic and political circumstance.
Now, it is time to change again.
Contrary to those who believe that unions have outlived their usefulness, we share the deep conviction that in a globalized economy dominated by the mobility of capital, organized labor has a more compelling role than ever.
Left solely to their own device, profit-driven multi-national corporations and the governments subservient to them can neither be trusted nor expected to look out for the well-being of their workers or the welfare of the societies in which they operate.
Without the countervailing power that only organized workers can achieve, the economic freedom and political democracy that are the foundations of the good life we have come to enjoy are in serious peril.
Modern history could not be more clear. As free trade unions are strong - so too are economies and democracies.
We are convinced that by combining our resources, our experience and the trade union spirit that guides our leaders and members, we can far better bring a vital and necessary balance to the scales of political, social and economic justice.
Our ability to implement strategies that reverse the declining standard of life experienced by so many hard working men and women will be immensely improved.
Together, we can consolidate the kind of technical resources, innovative tactics and efficient operations that will create the new, high-performance union our members need and desire.
In collective bargaining, members and employers alike will come to know and respect the power of our combined strength.
Our unification will greatly enhance our ability to bring the vitality of trade unionism to unrepresented women and men, employed in the emerging new work of the information age as well as those in the established economy.
By integrating the shared wisdom and energy of our retired and active members, we will dramatically increase the impact of our political action.
Our combined strength will bring new energy to the AFL-CIO.
Our capacity to forge greater international trade union cooperation, such as the creation of a federation of North American metalworkers and stronger ties with international trade union coordinating bodies will be much expanded.
In sum, our enduring vision of a world of dignity, security and prosperity for the many -- not just the few - requires nothing less that that we create a new union for a new era.
We intend to answer that call.
DONAHUE, SWEENEY SET FOR HISTORIC ENCOUNTER
The two declared candidates for President of the AFL-CIO, Tom Donahue and John Sweeney will address the California Federation of Labor conference, Aug. 24, in Los Angeles.
The campaign appearances will take place on the first day of the two day meeting. The second day will be devoted to union organizing. Gold Room, Biltmore Hotel, 506 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. For more information, call 415/986-3585.
LABOR DAY PARADE
Monday Sept. 4, will be celebrated the old fashioned way by at least 40 unions representing more than 100,000 workers. Only a small percentage are expected to turn out for the march that begins at 10 a.m. from Broad and E streets in Wilmington. A rally and picnic at Banning Park follows. Gil Cedillo, leader of SEIU Local 660, the county workers unions, is the keynote speaker. Large numbers of longshore workers, fresh from their coast-wide walkout, are expected to participate. Sponsored by the Harbor Labor Coalition. For more information, call 213/753-3461.
LABOR DAY BREAKFAST
A pancake breakfast, sponsored by the L.A. County Federation of Labor, will be held at Trade Tech College, beginning at 8 a.m. Speakers, booths and a union labor directory are also featured. For more information, call 213/381-5611.
Copyright 1995 L.A. Labor News. To reach L.A. Labor News:
FAX: 310/399-7352 * Voice: 310/399-8685
Postal: P.O. Box 644, Venice, CA 90294
Aug. 18, 1995 * #8