Disclaimer

The articles excerpted on this site report on the state of the industry as seen by mainstream media, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the officers of the ILWU Coast Longshore Division.

Trump names Alexander Acosta as labor secretary nominee

Trump’s first disastrous nominee, Andrew Puzder, withdrew his name from consideration. Today Politico reports that Trump has chosen pick number two:

President Donald Trump on Thursday announced his intent to nominate Alexander Acosta, a former Justice Department official and current dean of Florida International University College of Law, for labor secretary, just a day after first pick, fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder, backed out.

Acosta, who was born in Cuba, would become the first Hispanic member of Trump’s cabinet. He has been confirmed by the Senate for three prior positions, which could help smooth his path to the Labor Department.

Still, his background is not without some controversy, including allegations that, while a U.S. attorney in Miami, he cut a sweetheart plea deal in 2008 with a billionaire investor accused of having sex with dozens of underage girls.

More at Politico

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Puzder can't be labor secretary; he's anti-labor

Opinion from the Workplace Justice Project and the Centro de los Derechos del Migrante in the Baltimore Sun:

President Trump campaigned on promises of higher wages and better jobs, but he has betrayed those promises with his nomination of fast-food chain CEO Andrew Puzder for secretary of the Department of Labor.

The Department of Labor exists, according to its own mission statement “to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.” It is an entity charged with enforcing our basic workplace laws, like minimum wage and overtime requirements and laws that protect worker health and safety. Yet instead of choosing a champion of workers, Mr. Trump chose a millionaire contemptuous of the very department he has been tapped to lead.

Mr. Puzder is the CEO of CKE Restaurants, parent company of the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s fast-food chains. He has demonstrated outright hostility to workers, including those at his own business. He would like to replace his employees with machines to avoid having to provide benefits because machines are “always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case.”

Read more about this ray of sunshine at the Baltimore Sun

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Experts warn of carrier alliances causing congestion, disruption at U.S. ports

Excerpts from an article titled ”’Shotgun start’ of new alliances to test port productivity” in the Journal of Commerce:

Concern is growing that major US gateways won’t be able to handle the overnight changes that will occur at marine terminals when new ocean carrier alliances take effect on April 1. A new bout of congestion is potentially just weeks away.

Experts say they can see it coming a mile away; problems are inevitable any time the normal routine is disrupted at a marine terminal. … That’s the scenario beneficial cargo owners will face in a little more than a month, particularly at ports with multiple terminals, such as Los Angeles and Long Beach. A variety of changes to the normal routine will occur virtually overnight.

“On the trans-Pacific, there will be significant disruption come April when the new services are introduced,” said Tan Hua Joo, executive consultant with Alphaliner.

Read the full article at the Journal of Commerce

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Maersk Line defers delivery of new container ships to prop up cashflow

From The Loadstar:

Maersk Line is to postpone delivery of nine newbuild 14,000 teu ‘utility’ ships with the last vessel to be received at the end of 2018, instead of at the end of this year.

Maersk Line says it does not need the ships as it is able to charter vessels of this size easily and cheaply in the current depressed market, and has recently taken on long-term charter six former Hanjin-operated 13,100 teu vessels at a fraction of the daily hire rate the South Korean carrier paid.

More at The Loadstar

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Developers withdraw coal terminal applications, ending Gateway Pacific project at Cherry Point

From the Bellingham Herald:

Developers of the proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point have withdrawn its permit applications, essentially closing the book on the project.

Pacific International Terminals sent a letter Tuesday to Whatcom County officials announcing it was stopping the environmental impact statement process and is withdrawing its applications for the Gateway Pacific Terminal.

The company, which is a subsidiary to SSA Marine, said it is looking into other alternatives, including modifications to the project. It is not abandoning any other rights it may have on the property, said Skip Sahlin, vice president of project development for SSA Marine.

More at the Bellingham Herald

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How has your Senator voted on Trump nominees so far?

The New York Times makes it easy to find out where our Senators stand:

The Senate has confirmed each of President Trump’s nominees that it has voted on so far. Fifteen members of the cabinet and eight other top administration posts require Senate confirmation.

All but three of the “no” votes have come from Democrats and have essentially been symbolic statements of opposition. Nominees need only a simple majority to be confirmed, and Republicans hold 52 seats in the Senate.

See the New York Times chart here

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Port of Oakland exports continue to soar in 2017

From a Port of Oakland news release:

New year, same old story at the Port of Oakland: exports are on the rise again. The Port said today that containerized export volume increased 9 percent last month compared to January 2016. It was the seventh straight month of rising exports in Oakland, and the 12th increase in 13 months.

Containerized imports increased last month, too, rising 3.6 percent. Overall, loaded container volume at the Port was up 6.1 percent.

The Port said agricultural commodities continue to drive Oakland export increases. For instance, strong harvests and aggressive marketing helped boost overseas sales of California almonds last month.

Read the rest here

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Maersk slumps to only its second annual loss in seven decades

Excerpts from the Financial Times:

Shares in Maersk fell as much as 7 per cent on Wednesday as it reported only its second annual loss in seven decades and halved its dividend to try to protect its investment grade credit rating.

Maersk recorded a net loss of $1.9bn for 2016, compared with analysts’ expectations of a $960m profit, as it booked impairments of $2.7bn on its oil rig and supply services units.

Soren Skou, chief executive, said Maersk Line, which is in the middle of buying German rival Hamburg Sud, won market share from competitors throughout the year and was well placed to benefit from an anticipated recovery in the container shipping industry. He forecast an improvement of at least $1bn in Maersk Line’s profit this year.

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7 months in, expanded Panama Canal still faces challenges

Excerpts from the Associated Press:

Loaded with more than 6,000 cargo containers, the ship Ever Living prepared for the final leg of its journey through the newly expanded Panama Canal when things hit a snag: The last of the massive steel lock doors failed to open all the way.

The pilots controlling the ship and the captains of the tugboats tethered to huge vessel opted to continue guiding it through the narrowed passageway, passing nerve-wrackingly close to the side of the locks to avoid running into the stuck door.

“These are things that shouldn’t happen,” tugboat captain Mauricio Perez said. “Sometimes the only thing we can do is pray.”

A little over seven months after authorities launched a much-ballyhooed, $5.25 billion canal expansion to accommodate many of the world’s largest cargo vessels, they have yet to fully work out a significant kink: With little margin for error, ships are still scraping the walls and prematurely wearing out defenses designed to protect both the vessels and the locks themselves.

Even before the canal opened in late June, tugboat pilots had expressed concern about what they said was insufficient training for maneuvers that are now required — and that are a radical departure from the previous system.

In the old locks, which are still in use, ships get tethered to powerful locomotives on both sides that keep them centered in the canal. In the new locks, that responsibility falls to the tugs, one tied to the bow and another to the stern.

“It is like threading the eye of a needle,” said pilot Alvaro Moreno.

More at the Associated Press

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Hardee's veteran calls Trump's labor nominee Puzder a 'disaster for workers'

Excepts from an opinion piece called ‘Andrew Puzder will be a disaster for workers. I know: He was for me.’ in the Washington Post:

JoAnn Wise, author of this opinion piece in the Washington Post, worked at Hardee's for 21 years.

JoAnn Wise, author of this opinion piece in the Washington Post, worked at Hardee’s for 21 years.

I already know what Trump/Puzder economics look like because I’m living it every day. Despite giving everything I had to Puzder’s company for 21 years, I left without a penny of savings, with no health care and no pension. Now, while I live in poverty, Trump, who promised to fix the rigged economy, has chosen for labor secretary someone who wants to rig it up even more. He’s chosen the chief executive of a company who recently made more than $10 million in a year, while I’m scraping by on Supplemental Security payments.

When I began at Hardee’s, I was hopeful. I liked the work and received a promotion to shift manager after only a month. But the pay remained low, and even with my husband’s salary as the head cook at Fort Jackson, we relied on food stamps and Medicaid. We were two full-time-employed adults; we shouldn’t have had to turn to the government, but we had kids to raise, and so we were left with no other choice.

The cooks and cashiers at Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. are the reason Puzder can take home more than $10 million in a single year and live in a plush mansion with movie star neighbors — while his workers like me skip meals to pay our rent and are forced to live in homeless shelters.

We are their corporate strategy: Pay us as little as legally allowed, steal from our meager paychecks as needed and force us onto public assistance to get by. Sadly, that’s the America Trump and Puzder believe in: an America where workers give everything to an employer, and in return, receive nothing.

Enough is enough: Puzder should not be confirmed as secretary of labor, and the crisis of American wages and health care shouldn’t be allowed to continue.

Excepts from an opinion piece in the Washington Post:

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Republicans push anti-union ‘Right-to-Work’ in Washington State and Washington D.C.

Excerpts from The Stand:

Republicans in the Washington State Legislature and Congress are introducing bills this week that would institute so-called “right-to-work” policies in Washington and nationally, an attempt to deliver a severe blow to the labor movement and weaken workers’ collective bargaining rights at the behest of U.S. corporations.

Right-to-work laws ban unions and employers from agreeing to union-security contract clauses, which allows workers to stop paying for representation while still requiring the union to represent them. It would be akin to allowing people to opt out of paying taxes, but still requiring the government to provide the same services to taxpayers and free-riders alike.

Right-to-work laws have roots in Southern racism and the Jim Crow-era quest for super-exploited labor. They are used to justify racial exclusion, weaken established collective bargaining agreements, and financially cripple unions so they can’t help workers organize. Once confined to states in the South, Republican-controlled states like Michigan and Wisconsin have adopted right-to-work laws in recent years with the support of conservative billionaire industrialists like the Koch brothers. States where the GOP just gained control following the 2016 elections, including Missouri and New Hampshire, are making right-to-work laws their first order of business in 2017.

Read the rest at The Stand

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ITF considera ‘descabellado’ el plan de reforma portuaria española

Spanish dockers are building support from longshore workers around the world, including this group of brothers in Koper, Slovenia.

Los trabajadores portuarios españoles están construyendo el apoyo de los hermanos y hermanas sindicales de todo el mundo, incluyendo este grupo de hermanos en Koper, Eslovenia.

La ITF (Federación Internacional de los Trabajadores del Transporte) califica el plan del gobierno español para destripar la normativa portuaria de “descabellado” y un peligro para la posición de España en el mundo.

Paddy Crumlin, presidente de la ITF y de la Sección Portuaria, afirma: “El gobierno español va a descuartizar la normativa vigente demostrando un despiadado menosprecio por los empleos españoles, por el prestigio de España y los convenios internacionales. Sus planes son descabellados.

“Nuestros sindicatos afiliados españoles nos han informado que el gobierno les comunicó su intención de aprobar un decreto que liberaliza de forma agresiva y destructiva el mercado laboral portuario. Increíblemente, pretenden incluso desmantelar el sistema actual de registro de estibadores, incumpliendo así las obligaciones internacionales de España, en concreto el Convenio 137 de la Organización Internacional del Trabajo (OIT). Además, el decreto propuesto ignora los acuerdos alcanzados hace pocas semanas entre la organización de la patronal, ANESCO, y los sindicatos, e inflige un daño y agresividad innecesarios”.

Crumlin concluye: “El gobierno español está actuando incomprensiblemente y contraviniendo potencialmente la legislación internacional. Por fortuna, los sindicatos españoles se están movilizando para resistir esta voluntad de destruir el diálogo social en sus puertos. Tienen garantizado nuestro apoyo internacional más absoluto”.

La coordinadora de Operaciones Marítimas de la ITF, Jacqueline Smith, añade: “Como respuesta al insólito plan del gobierno, se han convocado huelgas en todos los puertos españoles los días 20, 22 y 24 de febrero. Esperamos que aún estemos a tiempo para que el gobierno dé marcha atrás y abandone su precipitada propuesta y, en su lugar, entable negociaciones. En nombre de los sindicatos de la ITF de todo el mundo eso es lo que le aconsejamos”.

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ITF: Spanish port plans ‘beyond belief’

Spanish dockers are building support from longshore workers around the world, including this group of brothers in Koper, Slovenia.

Spanish dockers are building support from longshore workers around the world, including this group of brothers in Koper, Slovenia.

The ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) today described plans by the Spanish government to gut the rules that govern Spanish ports as beyond belief and a danger to Spain’s standing in the world.

ITF president and dockers’ section chair, Paddy Crumlin, stated: “The Spanish government is tearing up the rule book with a callous disregard for Spanish jobs, Spanish prestige and international conventions. Their plans go beyond belief.

“We understand from our Spanish affiliate unions that they have been told by the government that it intends to approve a law which seeks to aggressively and destructively liberalise the port labour market. Unbelievably it even seeks to dismantle the current dockers’ registration system in breach of Spain’s international obligations under ILO (International Labour Organization) Convention 137. To add to the sense of the damaging, unnecessary and aggressive intent the proposed law furthermore ignores the agreements reached a few weeks ago between the employers’ association, ANESCO, and the unions.”

Mr Crumlin concluded: “The Spanish government is acting beyond sense and potentially beyond international law. Thankfully Spanish unions are mobilising to resist its determination to wreck social partnership in its ports. They are absolutely assured of our international support.”

ITF maritime operations coordinator Jacqueline Smith added: “As a result of the government’s extraordinary plan it will now face strikes in all Spanish ports on 20, 22 and 24 February. Hopefully there is still time for the government to walk away from this rash proposal and instead engage in negotiations. On behalf of ITF unions worldwide we counsel it to do so.”

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Final El Faro investigative hearing focuses on ship safety

Testimony in the Coast Guard’s third and final investigative hearing into the sinking of the cargo ship El Faro will focus on the ship’s stability and the audio contained on the vessel’s voyage data recorder.

Capt. Raymond Thompson, a former chief mate on the El Faro, testified Monday that he was not sure if life jackets were stored on the bridge as required.

Thompson was also questioned about reports that crew members of the El Faro were exhausted from having to work long shifts without sleep, WCSH-TV in Portland reported.

The 790-foot El Faro sank on Oct. 1, 2015, after losing propulsion in a hurricane while traveling from Jacksonville to Puerto Rico. All 33 aboard died.

More at the Press Herald

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Spanish dockworkers under threat by union-busting proposal

Translated from ‘Fomento liberalizará la contratación de estibadores en los puertos españoles’ in El Pais:

The Minister of Development, Íñigo de la Serna, prepares a decree law for the liberalization of the stevedoring in Spanish ports.

The reason for the modification of the stowage regulation is that there is an obligation to register with a Port Stevedores Management Company (Sagep)[and to] to hire only their stevedores. According to the census of December 2014, 6,156 dockers belong to the Sagep – a collective that manages the loading and unloading of merchandise from ships – of which 3,890 are in the sections of the ports of Algeciras, Valencia and Barcelona.

The stevedores are mobilized to stop the European directive, which would destroy 180 jobs in the port of Valencia.

Given the restricted competition, the salary of the collective is high: 60,000 euros per year, according to sources of the proposal. According to these same sources, the normative change is not intended to make the situation of dockers precarious, as trade union representatives charge, although they are expected to lose strength in collective bargaining and the possibility of a reduction in the number of people working on the loading and unloading of each vessel. Likewise, wages, because there is more supply of workers, can be reduced over time.

On Thursday night, the minister met with companies and unions to explain the new decree. “The employers understand the situation and support the text. The unions, for the moment, are in disagreement,” De la Serna said at an information meeting with the press this Friday. In fact, the unions have convened assemblies during this Friday and the option to call strike in the main ports of Spain.

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