Association for Union Democracy

Information and Resources for ILA Longshore Workers

Why a page for Longshore workers?

In early July 2005 the US Department of Justice filed a RICO suit against the ILA. This suit was a long time coming: members have suffered under corruption and organized crime influence in the union for more than sixty years (timeline of corruption in the ILA). The RICO suit will likely weaken the hold of racketeers over the union. It may also open the door to crucial democratic reforms, for example direct election of union officers.

AUD’s experience – supporting workers in the ILA, Teamsters, Laborers and many other unions – tells us that Government action against racketeers is not enough. The key to freeing the union from corruption and winning union democracy is an organized and active membership. (What is union democracy?)

We want to help ILA members organize. This page pulls together much of the information and resources AUD offers ILA members: information about your democratic rights and how to enforce them, background on the struggle against corruption in the ILA, the possible consequences of the RICO suit and more.

Contact us: tell us what is going on in your local, share your questions and ideas, tell us what kind of help you would like to see.

Your legal rights and how to enforce them
AUD provides information about the legal rights of union members, as well as advice on how to organize to make your rights a reality. Check out the material on this website and call or email us for more information or advice.
What if our union is put under a federal RICO monitorship? Written for ILA members before the Government suit, explains basics of a RICO suit and what it may mean for ILA members.
Benchmarks of a democratic union What would a democratic union look like? What kinds of changes might make the ILA more democratic?
Union Members Bill of Rights. The basic democratic rights of union members: fair elections, free speech, freedom from corruption.
Books and pamphlets about legal rights.
Get a copy of your contract and side agreements. Get your union constitution and bylaws. Use our sample letter.
Questions and answers about legal rights and organizing for democracy: union charges, elections, organizing a caucus, contract votes, grievances and more.
The RICO Trusteeships after Twenty Years: A Progress Report. In depth study of RICO experience in Teamsters, Laborers, and Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union by James B. Jacobs, Eileen M. Cunningham, and Kimberly Friday (on Laborers for Justice website).

ILA stories from Union Democracy Review
AUD’s publication, Union Democracy Review (UDR), covers struggles for democracy in all unions. We have covered the struggles of ILA members for many years. We want to tell your story, please contact us.

Feds file suit vs rackets in ILA(7/05-8/05)
Battling corruption in the ILA: a partial chronology(7/05-8/05)
Reform movement spreads in ILA (12/04-1/05)
Longshore workers nearly reject master contract (9/04-10/04)
Question and Answer: RICO monitorship in ILA? (9/04-10/04)
Who will police the Longshoremen’s ethics code? (1/04-3/04)
ILA Baltimore local threatened with trusteeship (5/03-6/03)
Nine years without a contract in ILA Lake Charles Local (3/03-4/03)
Reformers win majority in harbor workers local 333, ILA (8/9 2002)
AUD at Charleston ILA meeting (News 4/02)
Charleston Longshore unions win major victory 2/3 2002
“Charleston Longshore workers lead battle for reform.” 8/9 2001

Earlier articles from UDR: The following articles are not yet available online, contact AUD to get a print copy.

ILA Longshore workers sue to defend democracy Feb/March 2001
Summary: Four members of the ILA filed suit in Federal district court in Delaware on January 3 calling for reinstatement of the elected secretary of ILA Local 1694 who had been suspended from office for six months and fined $500 by the International. … With a memory of that history in mind, ILA members who take the road of reform display an exceptional fortitude. The law is with them… if it is vigorously enforced. They surely deserve that minimal measure of support.

The RICO suit vs. the ILA (in six ILA locals) June 1990
Summary: To what extent can the RICO suit against the ILA “succeed” in its objectives? It is not possible to give a confident reply. For at least thirty years, this union has been, literally, a graveyard of democracy. The war will not be won in any single decisive battle; time and persistence are required. But in any event, the effort, as in this RICO suit, is necessary…

AFL-CIO soon to face new waterfront scandals May 1978
Summary: For over two years, the Atlantic and Gulf Shipping industry has been under intensive Federal investigation by the Department of Labor, Internal Revenue Service, Customs Service and FBI. On March 2, Anthony Marro reported in the New York Times that some 70 agents are currently working on the case in New York alone. … The question which will not be downed is whether the leadership of the American trade union movement is capable of offering its membership a measure of protection, or even moral support, of their right to democratic unions free of corruption.

Other ILA Articles
Labor Notes magazine has also published stories about the reform efforts of ILA members, inlcuding in the following articles. (For more articles search “ILA” on the Labor Notes website.)
“Vote No” Campaign Heats Up Over East Coast Longshore Union Contract (offsite) June 2004
Longshore Contract Passes Narrowly; Opponents Claim Vote Was Unfair(offsite) July 2004
Longshore Rank and Filers Sue To Annul Contract Vote(offsite) August 2004
Discontent Spreads in East Coast Longshore Union(offsite) November 2004
Black Workers Still Get Short End of the Stick(offsite) February 2005
Steward’s Corner: How Our Local Bonded With The Community(offsite) December 2001
Caucus of Longshore Workers Seeks Greater Union Democracy and Militancy(offsite) August 2001
Victimized by “Police Riots”(offsite) April 2001

AUD educational workshops
AUD offers educational workshops for union members and officers. Our hands-on workshops are tailored to your situation and provide information and tools for enforcing your rights and building a movement for democracy in your union. See our education page for more information or contact AUD.

How to set up a workshop: AUD staff can travel to your port to teach workshops on legal rights and organizing. (See this report on a workshop we did in Charleston, SC.) We can also work with you to design training that you can do with your coworkers. Here’s how to get the ball rolling.

Other tools for ILA activists

* AUD Stickers: “Clean up our union with democracy.” Stick them on a hardhat, vest, lunchbox, locker, vehicle, bulletin board or anywhere else you can spread the word about union democracy. Union made and inexpensive: $3 for a sheet of 12, $2 for each additional sheet.
* Bundles of Union Democracy Review. Hand them out to coworkers on the job (at breaktime), at union meetings, wherever you can reach your coworkers. Just $5 for a bundle of 20 copies. Order here.
* Guide to Running for Delegate to the ILA convention. AUD prepared this guide before the last ILA convention. With the government monitorship, rules and procedures may change but this guide may still apply and will help you think through what is involved in running for delegate. Not available online, contact AUD.
* Forming a Women’s Committee or Caucus. A chapter from the Manual for Survival, includes great material on organizing a caucus.
* Get your union’s LM-2 form. LM forms are a good source for information about your union, the names of officers, the date of the next union election, the number of members, officer and staff salaries and more. Our LM-2 page helps you get the info from the Dept of Labor website.
* Other publications and organizations. Explore our list of labor sites. A good place to start is Labor Notes (publisher of Labor Notes magazine, A Troublemaker’s Handbook and other books) they also cover the reform movement in the ILA and work with ILA members.

(Please share your suggestions for tools or resources.)

Links to other Longshore worker websites

* ILA Rank and File. “An organization of ILA members who came together
around our recent contract negotiations to fight for a just contract.”
* ILWU-List. “an unofficial, rank-and-file run discussion list. Subscribers should be ILWU members 18 years of age or older. If you believe in free speech… then speak!”
* ILWU Local 19. The unofficial website for Local 19 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in Seattle, Washington.
* Longshore Workers’ Coalition LWC. “movement of ILA members and retirees organizing to build a stronger and more democratic longshore union.”
* The Harbor Herald. ” The Harbor Herald is a newsletter that was started over two years ago to bring the membership information about local 333 [tug boat operators] and the questionable activities of your union officials.”
* The Rusty Hook. Website of the Seattle, Washington ILWU-Pension Club.
* Voice of the Membership. Website of William Harrigan, executive board member in ILA local 333.

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