Dumping Pineapples, Not Tea, Philly Longshore Workers Protest Del Monte Fruit’s Low-Balling

Not a tea party but a pineapple party: Longshore workers in Philadelphia dumped pineapples into the Delaware River on Labor Day to protest the Del Monte fruit company’s plans to go non-union. Photo: Local 1291.

Not a tea party but a pineapple party: Longshoremen’s (ILA) Local 1291 in Philadelphia dumped pineapples into the Delaware River on Labor Day to protest the Del Monte fruit company’s plans to go non-union.

Del Monte has signaled it will move its banana-and-pineapple importing operation October 1 to a non-ILA pier controlled by Holt Logistics. The shift could cost the ILA in Philadelphia 200-300 jobs and up to 400,000 labor hours, according to local press. Other non-ILA and non-union operations on the Delaware River are already dragging down conditions on the Philadelphia docks and elsewhere.

Between 400 and 500 longshore workers and supporters turned out to spill the pineapples.

The protest played on “the Tea Party syndrome,” said Local 1291 President Boise Butler, chuckling. “But it got people to understand that it’s organized labor that provides family-sustaining jobs.”

Holt makes its money on ILA container operations in Philadelphia, working with shipping lines such as Maersk, MSC, and Hamburg Sud. Those companies currently enjoy labor peace with the ILA under its master contract.

WAGE CUT NOT ENOUGH

The ILA self-imposed cuts of up to $5 million in wages to try to entice Del Monte away from leaving, but the company decided to move anyway. The reduction in work hours could create a crisis for the entire ILA district’s pension and health funds.

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The Holt pier is advertising positions paying as little as $10.50 an hour with no benefits, Butler said. Top pay for these non-union workers is $23, but only a handful make that much. At the ILA port in Philadelphia, pay ranges from $17 to $24.50 an hour for union members working break bulk cargo, like Del Monte's fruit.

Butler says the local tried to organize the Holt pier a few years back, but the company used a mixture of fear-mongering and raises to stave off the union.

The local has already reached out around the globe to the International Dockworkers Council, the West Coast Longshore Workers (ILWU), and the International Transport Workers Federation. Members are demanding that Del Monte unload its ships using ILA labor that earns decent wages and benefits.

Butler said the local will keep pushing, because the blow dealt by Del Monte’s low-balling would strike at all dockworkers, not just those in Philadelphia.

“This is just the first step,” Butler said. “If Del Monte succeeds here, it sends a ripple effect to other banana shippers, on the West Coast and around the world.”

Mischa Gaus was the editor of Labor Notes from 2008 to 2012.mischagaus@gmail.com

Comments

ILALocal1242 (not verified) | 09/23/10

There were a number of jobs that paid the master agreement container rate but none that paid higher.
They worked 5 gangs on the ship, one gang worked containers for the entire time the ship worked. a second gang worked containers for 6 to 8 hours on the second day the shipped worked. we also recieved the container rate when we "swung" a load from a container to a truck.
Under the $5 million cut we were willing to take, all container rate would have been cut to a top rate of $22.50.
As for how we messed it up? Tom Holt is out to destroy the ILA. If not stopped he will convince a large containerized steamship company ( i.e Hamburg Sud) to go non ILA and cripple the Master
Agreement . We in Philadelphia have totally failed to even slow him down and what is worse, every dollar we make for him at the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal he uses to destroy us.
At this point I would be willing to not work for a year if we could somehow starve him out while we starve, burt if we don't stop him we will starve alone.

bayareadocks (not verified) | 09/21/10

My boys tell me that the guys there were making MORE that the master contract container work? Can that be true? How did they screw this up?

ILALocal1242 (not verified) | 09/19/10

Please boycott all Del Monte fresh products.
Longshoremen unloading Del Monte products in Florida, Texas, and California, unfortunately if Del Monte and holt succeed in paying 3rd world wages in the Port of Philadelphia it is only a matter of time before they "force" lower wages on you or replace you with cheap labor.
It is unfortunate that Del Monte has decided to take advantage of a bad economy in this way but their history in Central America (and Hawaii) tells us that Mohammed Abu (the company CEO) has no respect for
labor.
Please Boycott Del Monte and please help the fight in any way possible.
Thankls.
PS: Del Monte is a very very profitable company. $58 million in the 2nd quarter of 2010.
Thanks