Union Sued for Illegal Activities

Frustrated by over 135 illegal union actions that have continually idled West Coast ports since 1996, the Pacific Maritime Assn. is seeking a court order to prevent dockworkers from violating contract provisions prohibiting strikes and slowdowns. PMA filed suit Sep. 11 in U.S. Dist. Court in L.A. to halt an alarming trend of improper walkouts, demonstrations and stoppages that have cost shippers and consumers tens of millions of dollars.

“Illegal slowdowns, gimmicks and games have become daily fare for the [Int’l] Longshore & Warehouse Union,” the suit states. “[M]illions of dollars are lost each week by the ILWU’s contemptuous behavior.” Named defendants include ILWU, Locals 13 in L.A. and Local 63 in Long Beach. The suit doesn’t seek financial damages. Instead, PMA attorneys want a permanent injunction to force ILWU to comply with existing contracts. The suit cites seven major work stoppages that were deemed illegal by arbitration authorities.

The most recent and egregious example came Jul. 10 when ILWU members from Alaska set up roving pickets in the ports of L.A. and Long Beach to protest an Alaskan dispute. Members of Local 13 & 63 honored the picket lines closing terminals for 5 hours. The action was later found to be illegal because the Alaskan dockworkers had no dispute with shippers in L.A. or Long Beach. Then on Jul. 27, the Alaskans returned to L.A. and Long Beach to picket again. Ignoring the earlier ruling, members of Local 13 & 63 refused to cross the picket lines again. “Repeating a pattern that is almost pathological, the unions continue to violate the no-strike clause with impunity, irrespective of arbitration awards that condemn the activity,” the lawsuit states. [L.A. Times 9/12/98]