PMA ORDERS LABOR FOR NIGHT SHIFT, ILWU CRIES COLLUSION
The Pacific Maritime Association said it had “ordered labor for the shift that begins Wednesday at 6 p.m.” at all 29 U.S. West Coast ports under the PMA’s jurisdiction.
The PMA, which represents West Coast port employers, was responding to an order by the federal court implementing an injunction requested by President Bush under the Taft-Hartley Act, to call an end to an 11-day lockout imposed by the PMA against the International Longshore & Warehouse Union.
The injunction was granted after the PMA turned down an offer, allegedly brokered through the White House, for a 30-day contract extension. The ILWU had agreed to the extension.
The injunction enters the PMA and ILWU into an 80-day cooling off period, in which they are required to resume 'normal operations,' and must work with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to resolve the dispute.
The ILWU on Wednesday said union members would return to work, but called the injunction a case of 'anti-union employer-government collusion.'
Calling Taft-Hartley an 'anti-union law, ILWU International President James Spinosa said, 'Bush has always actively sided with employers against workers. This collusion between the government and the employers was planned well in advance.'
Spinosa accused PMA President Joe Miniace of 'previewing' to press in January his plans to lockout the union took out a' $200-million line of credit to help PMA last through the lockout.' He also said the head of the West Coast Waterfront Coalition told members last spring that they should prepare to hold out for a two-week lockout.
He also cited an L.A. Times July 5 story, claiming 'an attorney with the Bush administration's Department of Labor threatened the ILWU with the Taft-Hartley injunction, with special legislation to take away the union's legal rights to collectively bargain and to strike, and with sending in military personnel to seize the ports and operate them as scabs and strikebreakers.'
A PMA spokesman had no comment on the ILWU’s statement.
Spinosa said the union anticipates being the brunt of PMA accusations of slowdowns and not providing enough labor to deal with the huge backlog of cargo stuck on West Coast docks and loaded upon anchored ships in ports' harbors.
The Taft-Hartley act's provisions 'for fines, contempt of court citations and prison sentences for those violating the terms of the contract are aimed at workers,' Spinosa said, claiming the act gives employers '80 days of free shots at the union and we expect the employers will be dragging us to court daily, trying to bankrupt the union and throw our leaders in jail.'
Spinosa reiterated claims that slowdowns in labor productivity on Sept. 27 were on account of 'safety program,' not organized work slowdowns, which were illegal under the PMA-ILWU contract that expired June 30 and had been extended daily through Sept. 2.
The PMA claimed the union's actions cut productivity by 60 percent, and the employers responded by locking out labor on Sept. 28. The ports reopened briefly on Sept. 29 but the lockout was re-imposed through today.
The Union said congestion and record volumes at West Coast ports had resulted in an increase in accidents and injuries, including five fatalities in the past six months.
Bush on Monday signed an executive order creating a board of inquiry to assess and report on the dispute between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union.
The board of inquiry reported Tuesday to Bush that 'we have no confidence that the parties will resolve the West Coast ports dispute within a reasonable time.'
The board of inquiry said 'the seeds of distrust have been widely sown, poisoning the atmosphere of mutual trust and respect which could enable a resolution to seemingly intractable issues. For example, the parties have been unable to agree even on such matters as the length of proposed temporary contract extensions although both know that their standoff costs the nation billions of dollars.'
Mediation talks between the PMA, which represents port employers, and the ILWU broke down Sunday night and Peter Hurtgen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, suspended negotiations with no resolution in sight.