September 4, 2013

Not National Establishment Press News: Longshore Union Leaves AFL-CIO Over Obamacare, Other Disagreements

The AFL-CIO has just lost 40,000 of its most militant members, and it’s not news at the Associated Press’s national site (there is a regional AP story at the Seattle Times) or at the New York Times. It is getting virtually no other establishment press coverage (results at the link are primarily center-right blogs and similar outlets).

The departing members are those in the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. In a three-page letter to AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka, ILWU President Donald McEllrath laid out concerns over picket-line crossings and encroachments by other AFL-CIO affilliates, but also cited Trumka’s “overly moderate, compromising policy positions on such important matters as immigration, labor law reform, health care reform, and international labor issues.” A few paragraphs from AP’s unbylined regional story are after the jump (bolds are mine throughout this post):

Longshore union pulls out of national AFL-CIO

ILWUandAFLCIO

The West Coast longshore union is cutting its 25-year affiliation with the national AFL-CIO because groups affiliated with the umbrella organization have been crossing picket lines at Pacific Northwest grain terminals and trying to take jobs from dockworkers at other ports.

Robert McEllrath, president of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union, explained the decision in a letter to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, a copy of which was obtained by The Oregonian newspaper.

Dockworkers at grain terminals in Portland and Vancouver, Wash., have been locked out of jobs for months, and McEllrath says affiliates have been “blatantly” crossing picket lines on a daily basis. He also cited offenses – he uses the word “attacks” – by other affiliates in Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma.

As an affiliate since 1988, the ILWU passed on a portion of its dues receipts to the AFL-CIO, a national federation of unions with more than 12 million members. McEllrath’s letter, sent Thursday, notes that the ILWU has been independent and unaffiliated for most of its history.

“Today, the ILWU returns to that tradition,” he wrote.

Besides exposing a rift in organized labor, the letter reveals the increasingly embattled status of the dockworkers’ union as automation takes away jobs.

The AP story didn’t get to non-picket line matters until its eighth of 11 paragraphs:

Moreover, McEllrath’s letter states that the ILWU has become frustrated with the AFL-CIO’s “overly compromising” policy positions on immigration, labor law reform, health care reform and international labor issues. “We feel the Federation has done a great disservice to the labor movement and all working people by going along to get along.”

Katie Pavlich at Townhall.com notes that ILWU specifically objected to Obamacare’s treatment of “Cadillac” health plans (links are in original):

… McEllrath also ripped Trumka for his support of Obama’s 40 percent Cadillac healthcare plan tax. 

“President Obama ran on a platform that he would not tax medical plans and at the 2009 AFL-CIO convention, you stated that Labor would not stand for a tax on our benefits,” the letter states. “The ILWU has also become increasingly frustrated with the Federation’s moderate, overly compromising policy positions on such important matters as immigration, labor law reform, healthcare reform, and international labor issues.”

Labor unions and President Obama have been taking beatings over Obamacare from all sides. Labor union leaders supported Obamacare before really knowing what was in it, resulting in massive taxes, layoffs and fewer working hours for the workers they represent. In July, labor union leaders from the Teamsters, UNITE-HERE and UFCW sent a letter to Congress saying, “We have a problem; you need to fix it.” Last week, Trumka  finally openly admitted Obamacare needed to be tweaked and that mistakes were made in the legislation.

Well, if there were mistakes, Big Labor made them, because, as noted earlier yesterday (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), Big Labor helped write the law.

The ILWU’s defection is hardly a regional matter, given how much U.S.-based and U.S.-imported commerce travels through the West Coast facilities whose workers it represents.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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