Climate Change in the Labor Movement

There is climate change afoot, and not only in our natural environment. There is a new global warming in the labor movement in the United States and worldwide. In the past several weeks, we have witnessed the uprising of 200,000 Bangladeshi garment workers and the walkouts of fast food employees. We have seen miners in South Africa and teachers in Mexico stand up again increasingly violent corporate greed and government compliance with that corporate greed. We have seen wildcat actions in the construction sectors and in the retail sectors, much of it outside the mainstream labor movement. 
This new militancy is reflecting a new anger among working people. When a major union like the International Longshore and Warehouse Union breaks with the established AFL-CIO and associates itself with the temperament of the Industrial Workers of the World, those who follow these trends should take notice. It is a reaction to the callous indifference of the Republican Party and its corporate puppeteers, but more importantly it is a reaction to a system which seem more and more bent on waging its own class war on working people.
The System is again pushing the buttons to see how much they can squeeze from working people before there is a working class backlash. And working people are pushing back even harder than before. — Steve Rossignol


Originally published Sep 20, 2013 at


The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) on Aug. 29 ended its affiliation with the AFL-CIO. The action comes less than year after the ILWU joined with five other unions to form the Maritime Labor Alliance.

The newly established Alliance includes the ILWU, the American Radio Association, Inlandboatmen’s Union, the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA), the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots (MM&P), and the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA).

MM&P President Don Marcus is president of the Alliance, and MEBA President Mike Jewell is secretary-treasurer.

In a letter to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka dated Aug. 29, 2013, ILWU President Robert McEllrath cited jurisdictional disputes as part of the reason for disaffiliating. McEllrath was particularly upset by the AFL-CIO’s decision to stay out of a conflict his union had with Operating Engineers at EGT grain terminal in Longview, Washington. But McEllrath also criticized the AFL-CIO for “overly compromising positions” on a path to legalizing immigrants, on letting the health care revision law tax high-value health insurance plans, and on allowing immigrant visas to benefit corporations.

The ILWU represents 50,000 workers on the docks and in other industries in Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, Hawaii, and Panama. It has roots with the old Wobblies (International Workers of the World), and was an early affiliate of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). In 1950, the ILWU and 10 other unions were kicked out of the CIO for allegedly being led by communists. It wasn’t until 1988 that the ILWU joined the merged AFL-CIO.



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