Friday, November 09, 2007

Labor Solidarity for Maersk

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On Nov. 7th 2007 a picket line was called to push the administration of Maersk (headquarters in Tacoma, WA) to allow workers to join the union of their choice instead of the company union that managers have imposed on them.

An arbitrator called by the longshoremens' union (ILWU) and management decided whether the picket line Jobs With Justice staged was safe to cross. The arbitrator deemed it unsafe and required management to compensate the longshore workers for not crossing the line.

Jobs With Justice organized the picket, Tacoma SDS and other community members who heard word-of-mouth about the picket went to the port to show solidarity.

Maersk is the largest shipping company in the world, JwJ said. Its North American headquarters are located in Tacoma. The workers are not granted basic needs that other union workers are, such as a living wage. Workers are forced to join the company union which acts as an obstacle to them. Maersk has tried to convince workers that the company union is a good union, and that other unions are dangerous. The workers are not convinced. They voted to change the company union, and Maersk is unwilling to do that at this time.

Tacoma P.D. singled out Tacoma SDS members and asked for identification and phone numbers. There were no physical confrontations, but our group felt it was unfair that officers would single out SDS without any reasonable suspicion. We told them we would not consent to any of their questions or searches. Officer Darlington said the port has been the site of conspiracies to conduct terrorism. "People ride jetskis next to tankers and then they speed off in the other direction," he said. We were not convinced that this warranted suspicion towards Tacoma SDS.

Mark Jensen from UFPPC wrote,

Maersk began operations at the Port of Tacoma in 1985, and completed a major port extension in 2002, finishing the Port of Tacoma's largest terminal before the Iraq war. Maersk Line Ltd. contracts with the Department of Defense Military Sealift Command to operate and manage a number of military vessels, and has approximately double the volume of its business with the U.S. Government since Sept. 11, 2001, undertaking one third of the shipping of all U.S. military equipment to Iraq in preparation of the March 2003 invasion and earning more than $1 billion in sales through 2006, according to a CorpWatch ( =13196&printsafe=1) account.

***Earlier I published an account of this protest that we wish to clarify. The Jobs with Justice (JwJ) port protest was a community solidarity picket not a wildcat strike. JwJ is a community coalition that includes many community organizations as well as unions. Solidarity picketers did not include Port of Tacoma workers and JwJ did not call for and is not calling for a strike of any workers. Securitas is the contractor that Maersk hired to employ the Maersk Terminal guards who are organizing to form a union. The company union has a different name than Securitas. The arbitrator is an independent "neutral" selected jointly by management and union leaders and is not from the Longshoremens' union (ILWU).

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