The wages of anticommunism

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Mar 5 11:49:07 MST 2001

NY Times, March 5, 2001

Hard Feelings Outlast a Divisive 20-Month Strike at Domino Sugar


Bobby Horn should in theory be rejoicing that the 20-month strike at Domino
Sugar is finally over, but instead he is so disgusted that last week he
joined a group of workers who descended on their union's leaders to give
them a piece of their minds.

After piling into two minivans that carried them from the immense refinery,
on the Brooklyn waterfront, to the union hall several miles south, the 12
angry workers shouted and screamed that while they were mad at the company,
they were even madder at their union, the International Longshoremen's
Association. "We lost the strike," said Mr. Horn, a mechanic who has worked
at Domino for nearly half his 54 years. "Our union didn't support us. They
didn't help us in any way."

Mr. Horn is angry that the union did not provide strike benefits and did
little to rally support from the labor movement. He is also furious that
the union's national president, John Bowers, never visited the workers on
the picket line in what was one of the longest, hardest fought strikes in
New York in decades.

"I always thought the I.L.A. was a real powerful union," Mr. Horn said. "I
guess we all learn."

The Domino dispute was a classic labor standoff, pitting a few hundred
tenacious workers, eager to hold on to the benefits and protections they
had won over decades, against Tate & Lyle, the multinational company that
acquired Domino in 1988 and was intent on cutting costs and workers to keep
an aging refinery competitive.

While Mr. Horn and many strikers attribute their loss to the lack of
support from their parent union, some labor experts say the die was cast
against the strikers from the day the walkout began, June 15, 1999. With
few resources other than their own grit, the 286 unionized workers took on
a multibillion-dollar corporation not known for backing down in its fights
with unions. And the strikers had just one strategist and none of the
elaborate war plans that many unions develop before a successful strike.

"They began their strike in a traditional fashion and not thinking through
the consequences and without the artillery to back it up," said Greg
Tarpinian, president of Labor Research Associates, a New York consulting
group. "Some fights are lost the day they begin because of the balance of
forces. Valiance is important but it does not always mean victory."

Leaders of the national longshoremen's union, meanwhile, insist that they
did everything they could to help. A spokesman, Jim McNamara, said the
union "offered financial support throughout the months and years." But the
strikers said the parent union contributed only about $200,000 to support
the strikers, who each lost an average of $50,000 in wages.

The contract that the workers ultimately approved, 56 to 48, was not much
different from one that workers overwhelmingly rejected just before the
strike started. It weakens seniority rights, reduces the number of holidays
and sick days and gives management the freedom to contract out work and cut
the work force by 110 people, or two-fifths.

Full article:

The New York Times

March 31, 1990, Saturday, Late Edition - Final

Harry Bridges, Docks Leader, Dies at 88

Harry Bridges, a leading figure in America's 20th-century labor movement
who organized the West Coast longshoremen in the 1930's, died of emphysema
yesterday at his home in San Francisco, the longshoremen's union reported.
He was 88 years old.

The Australian-born Mr. Bridges, who entered this country by jumping ship
in 1920, was an unyielding unionist at a time when dock strikes could still
cripple segments of the economy. He was labeled a Communist by Congress,
which sought to deport him as an ''undesirable alien.''

Mr. Bridges, who never lost his Australian accent, came to the San
Francisco docks in 1922, when stevedores reported for the ''shape-up''
before sunrise to be picked for work or sent away. Continuous hefting of
cases and the steady pull of the longshoreman's hook left one hand like a
claw for the rest of his life.

His passion for union organization and growing militancy came to the fore
in 1933 when he led a group of organizers to establish a longshoremen's
local on the San Francisco docks. In six weeks, most dock workers had
signed up for the new International Longshoremen's Association local, which
demanded wages higher than the prevailing $10.45 a week, coast-wide
recognition and a 30-hour week.

Mediation failed and the I.L.A. struck in May 1934. On July 5, the police
charged a picket line in which two people were killed and a hundred
injured. Martial law was declared. A general strike followed, stopping most
industries for three days. The Pullout From the Old A.F.L. Mr. Bridges
pulled his I.L.A. local out of the American Federation of Labor in 1937 and
took it into what was to become John L. Lewis's militant Congress of
Industrial Organizations, He also reorganized his own union, renamed the
International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, independent of I.L.A.

Antagonism between the rival organizations persisted for years, with Mr.
Bridges denouncing the I.L.A. for ''corrupt'' dock-work practices and the
I.L.A. shunning him as a ''Communist,'' though he denied ever having joined
the Communist Party.


Journal of Commerce, January 6, 1992, Monday


Waterfront labor leader John Bowers said he will "go to the Supreme Court"
to fight a management group's plan that would ban certain union members
from working on New York and New Jersey docks.

The plan would end the management group's role in a waterfront civil
racketeering case brought by the U.S. Justice Department nearly two years
ago against six New York International Longshoremen's Association locals
and their leaders. Most parts of that case already have been settled, with
mixed results or the government.

Under the proposed settlement between the Justice Department and the New
York Shipping Association, the government would prepare a list of
individuals found to be members of an organized crime group or to have
aided and abetted a felony in the Port of New York and New Jersey. People
on the list would be banned from waterfront work even if they have not been
convicted of any crime.

"Before they deprive men of a living, I want to know what they mean by
association" with organized crime members, said Mr. Bowers, ILA president,
in his office in downtown Manhattan.

The ILA claims the proposed settlement violates its contract with the
shipping association. U.S. District Court Judge Leonard B. Sand in New York
has blocked union efforts to have an arbitrator decide whether the
settlement is a contract violation. ILA lawyers have appealed Judge Sand's
decision and will make oral arguments to an appeals court later this month.

Mr. Bowers said he hopes the entire case will soon be behind the ILA. He,
himself, was one of the main targets of the suit when it was first brought
nearly two years ago.

Mr. Bowers claimed vindication when he only had to make minor concessions
in his settlement.

However, the ILA's general organizer, Anthony Pimpinella, agreed to step
down as part of his settlement. Mr. Bowers said a new organizer has not
been chosen yet, but he wants whoever it is to work in New York. "I need
somebody here," he said.

With the case behind him, Mr. Bower said he hopes "to start concentrating
on the membership" rather than litigation. 1992 "has got to be better than"
1991 for the union, he said.

The labor leader took particular pride in seeing the end of the Soviet
Union. The ILA lost $ 11 million from a lawsuit filed by shipping
companies, stemming from the union's refusal to work Soviet ships after the
1979 invasion of Afghanistan. "Our defense was that our membership did not
want to work cargo that came from forced slave-labor," said Mr. Bowers in a

The "court said we were wrong (but) the Russian people said we were right"
in their rejection of communism, said Mr. Bowers.

"Eleven million dollars is not a small amount of money to lose fighting for
what we believe in, but it was worth it," he said.

The ILA plans on initiating a drug and alcohol testing program this year,
but the details are still being worked out with management, Mr. Bowers said.


Monthly Review, February 2001

About the Workers and For the Workers
by Michael D. Yates

Paul Le Blanc is what might be called an "organic labor intellectual."
Labor historian and theoretician of the labor movement, Selig Perlman,
condemned the role of intellectuals in the US labor movement. They were
outsiders, guilty of leading workers astray in pursuit of utopian (that is,
communist) visions. Perlman did not believe that people from the working
class who became intellectuals would be taken in by the likes of Marx and
Engels. Labor's real, "home-grown" or "organic" intellectuals, were
pragmatic, accepting of capitalism and content to win for workers as much
as they could gain within its framework. But Perlman was profoundly wrong.
Le Blanc and many others before him were "home-grown," but they were
radical too. And, in alliance with radical "outsiders," they were critical
to the building of the labor movement. The truth is that the heart of every
labor movement beats with a radical pulse, and while the pragmatists (like
John L. Lewis or the young Samuel Gompers) sometimes achieved much, they
almost always did so in periods of radical ferment.

Full review:

Louis Proyect
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