The USA's two dock worker unions may take the lead in forming a maritime labor alliance to protect their jurisdiction against encroachment by non-maritime unions or non-union employers.
The presidents of the International Longshoremen's Association on the East and Gulf coasts and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union on the West Coast have already discussed such an alliance that would presumably include other maritime unions.
"We would form a maritime alliance to do what the AFL-CIO is afraid to do," said ILA President Harold Daggett, in an address Wednesday to the 35th conference of the ILWU in Coronado, Calif.
Both dock worker unions have had disagreements with employers that attempted either to sign contracts with other unions or shifted their operations to non-union terminals.
Last year the ILWU organized a series of protests, and its president and members were arrested in the process, as they successfully prevented the International Union of Operating Engineers from securing jurisdiction at the new EGT grain terminal in Longview, Wash.
The ILA had similar problems last year when Fresh Del Monte shifted its Philadelphia operations formerly handled by the longshore union to a non-union terminal.
Daggett asked his ILWU brothers what value do maritime unions realize from their membership in the AFL-CIO when the national labor organization does not help to protect the jurisdiction of its member unions.
He expressed special bitterness toward other unions that attempt to poach traditional ILA or ILWU jobs. "What happened to union solidarity?" he asked.
Daggett said he and Bob McEllrath, president of the ILWU, have already discussed the feasibility of leading other maritime unions in formation of a national alliance. He noted that during his long career as an ILA member and officer, the ILA and ILWU have helped each other when the chips were down.
He noted that during a 1977 ILA strike, the ILWU president at the time, Jimmy Herman, invited the ILA to send pickets to the West Coast and he promised that the ILWU would honor the picket lines.
"We stopped 15 ships," Daggett said. East Coast employers quickly agreed to a contract that gave the ILA everything it wanted, he said.